The 6 Largest Biopharma Layoffs of 2024 So Far

Despite a surge in the financial markets, multiple Big Pharma companies have announced hundreds or even thousands of cuts. Experts hope for a better second half of the year.

Collage of businesses/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

The financial markets have surged thus far in 2024, recovering from post-pandemic slumps and even reaching new heights. Yet biopharma layoff trends have remained high. Biotech and pharma layoffs in 2023 totaled at least 10,000 jobs, according to BioPharma Dive. Now, just under halfway through the year, BioSpace has tallied more than 14,000 positions cut in 2024.

“I think the biggest surprise for me is that it’s continuing. Every quarter we think, ‘this is the quarter it’s going to change,’ but then something macro happens,” LifeSci Search CEO Matthew Toner told BioSpace. “Whether it’s political or interest rates or whatever, [layoffs] just don’t seem to be slowing down.”

Toner noted that the trend is affecting not only small players—biotechs that have yet to have drugs approved—but established pharmas as well. Some big players have announced cuts in the thousands. Just last week, news emerged that more than 800 New Jersey employees of Bristol Myers Squibb will be let go as part of the company’s massive restructuring plan, which will eliminate some 2,200 workers in total.

Not all layoffs are announced publicly, and for those that are, BioSpace compiled the data in our layoff tracker and estimated overall and individual-company totals. Based on information in company press releases, WARN notices, SEC filings, reports from other media outlets and interviews, here are the biopharma companies that have laid off the most employees so far in 2024:

1. Bristol Myers Squibb

BMS takes the unwanted number 1 spot in our list. As part of its “strategic productivity initiative,” the company is slashing its workforce by 2,200 employees by the end of this year. The move is intended to help the pharma giant cut $1.5 billion in costs by the end of 2025, and the layoffs specifically will make BMS “more agile” and “streamline the organization by removing layers of management,” CFO David Elkins said on a call with analysts in April.

The emphasis on trimming management positions is not a surprise to Toner, who pointed out that prior to current market conditions, there was a trend in the industry of title and salary inflation to get talent in the door. He cited vice presidents being boosted to chief officer roles with very little experience, and principal scientists elevated to management without leadership qualifications.

“We almost needed the downturn to stabilize things,” he said, “but I don’t think we expected it to go on for this long.”

2. Bayer

Toner’s observation about overinflated management staff may also apply to Bayer’s latest significant round of layoffs. Alongside its first quarter earnings for 2024, Bayer announced a headcount cut of 1,500 jobs—two-thirds of which were management positions. In March, the company let go of nearly half of its executive leadership, whittling down its C-suite from 14 positions to 8.

“Our senior leadership circle is already considerably smaller than it was a year ago,” CEO Bill Anderson noted in a media call in May, adding that the layoffs will help the company hit its targets of $540 million of sustainable cost savings in 2024 and $2.16 billion in 2026.

Additionally, the German multinational cut 90 positions from its New Jersey location as part of a reorganization announced in January, bringing Bayer’s total loss of staffers to nearly 1,600.

3. Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Takeda is closing down two of its R&D manufacturing facilities, letting go hundreds of staffers in the process, in addition to conducting a larger-scale layoff in Massachusetts. The tally is 1,155 positions lost—324 in San Diego, 190 in Austria and 641 in Cambridge and Lexington. Around 140 staffers will remain at the Austrian site until Takeda is able to sell the property.

The Japanese multinational lost exclusivity on its blockbuster ADHD drug, Vyvanse, in 2023. Takeda has forecasted a profit hit in the current fiscal year due to sales erosion. Its “enterprise-wide efficiency program” is a $900 million multi-year restructuring plan announced in 2024.

Takeda has late-stage assets in the pipeline that could help compensate for the patent cliff. It is currently awaiting results from Phase III trials for a drug it has licensed from Ovid Therapeutics and is testing for two rare epileptic conditions.

4. Pfizer

Conservation of cash is a major emphasis in the industry right now, Toner said, and the quickest way to cut spending is through layoffs.

Few are looking to conserve more cash than Pfizer, as the pharma giant continues to feel the sting of the sharp drop in demand for its COVID-19 products. In October 2023, the company announced a $3.5 billion cost-cutting plan, adding another $500 million two months later in a bid to save a total of $4 billion by the end of 2024. Last month, Pfizer unveiled plans to trim yet another $1.5 billion in costs by the end of 2027.

News of the company’s layoffs has trickled in. In January, Pfizer announced plans to lay off 52 employees from a facility in South San Francisco; 285 staffers were cut from its Pearl River, NY, facility between February and March; construction on a manufacturing plant in Everett, WA, ended, resulting in a 120 job cut; and a research facility in Colorado is closing by the end of second quarter. Though the number of layoffs was undisclosed in that case, reports indicate the facility had at one point employed 300. If the headcount was similar at site closing, Pfizer layoffs for 2024 so far total over 750.

5. Novartis

Novartis announced plans to eliminate around 680 jobs in its project development sector over the next two to three years. Around 440 of the positions are based in Switzerland with another 240 in the U.S.

The layoffs are part of a global restructuring initiative that began in 2022. The plan could affect up to 8,000 worldwide, according to Swiss news source Tages-Anzeiger.

6. Perrigo

In an initiative dubbed “Project Energize,” over-the-counter pharmaceuticals maker Perrigo is cutting costs and restructuring at the expense of 6% of its staff. According to the company’s website, its headcount is around 9,000, meaning nearly 550 employees will lose their jobs. Annual savings from the program is expected to deliver between $140 and $170 million by 2026.

Grounds for Optimism

While each of the first two quarters of 2024 have disappointed in terms of bringing a reduction in layoff numbers, “I do think the second half is going to be a lot better,” Toner said, noting that the IPO market has picked up. When companies get that cash in hand, they’re able to spend it on staff again.

However, Toner questioned whether the industry has learned from its mistakes in hiring, or if companies will “be back in the same boat,” inflating salary and title to get talent in, only to be right back in the position of conducting massive layoffs in a few years.

Regardless of the long-term outlook, he predicts the hiring market will pick back up for biopharma soon. Otherwise, he said, the recent market correction will have been “all for nothing” if the industry doesn’t rebalance to where it should be.

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at kate.goodwin@biospace.com and on LinkedIn.

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at kate.goodwin@biospace.com and on LinkedIn.
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