Sizable Layoffs Hit Four Life Science Companies

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Mid-year doldrums are hitting as multiple pharmaceutical and biotech companies have initiated layoffs across the United States.

Last week, beleaguered Merrimack Pharmaceuticals announced it intended to lay off its entire staff, including its executive leadership, as the company is biding its time to receive milestone payments from Ipsen, related to the sale of some oncology assets, including pancreatic cancer drug Onivyde. The layoffs are the last for the company as it is now essentially closed. Cambridge, Mass.-based Merrimack sold off its last clinical-stage products and shuttered its preclinical development programs. A potential plan to rebuild will be announced at the company’s next annual meeting of shareholders, the board of directors said. Over the past few years, Merrimack had undergone a number of layoffs as the company struggled with its clinical programming, including the termination of 60% of its staff following the failure of a lung cancer trial.

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Across the country, in California, Dynavax announced its plans to lay off more than one-third of its staff as the company undergoes a restructuring. The company plans to terminate 37% of its staff as it shifts its business away from immuno-oncology and prioritizes its vaccine business. The primary focus of Dynavax will be support for Heplisav-B, its first commercial product. The shift of its focus will cause the company to cut 82 positions, primarily those related to research and clinical development for the immuno-oncology programs, as well as general and administrative functions. In addition to the job cuts, Dynavax Chief Executive Officer Eddie Gray said he will step down from his role in August as the company undertakes the new tack.

In Wallkill, N.Y., drugmaker Geritrex LLC announced it was closing a plant and moving production to Mount Vernon, N.Y., the Times-Herald Record reported. Citing a filing with the state, the publication said the company will lay off 56 of the 76 employees at the facility beginning Aug. 18. It was not clear if the remaining 20 will be moving to Mount Vernon. The Times-Herald Record said the layoffs in Wallkill come about a year after the company announced layoffs in Mount Vernon to move production to Wallkill. For the latest layoffs, Geritrex said it was moving to a “virtual manufacturing model,” the Times-Herald Record said.

In a WARN notice filed with the state of New Jersey, Johnson & Johnson announced it was planning to lay off 61 employees effective July 15. The employees will be terminated from a facility in New Brunswick in order to create a more efficient consumer division, Becker’s Hospital Review reported. Also, J&J said the layoffs will provide the company additional capital to invest in other “high-growth opportunities.” The life sciences giant is also letting go two individuals from a West Chester, Penn.-based site between June 28 and July 12 due to an office closure, the company said in a WARN notice filed with the state of Pennsylvania. The two layoffs are part of a job cut first announced in October 2017, J&J said in the WARN notice.

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