Novartis shakes up R&D, closing down two biologics units
- Swiss pharma giant Novartis is creating two new centers for biotherapeutic research in its hometown of Basel, Switzerland and in Cambridge, MA. In the process, the company will close down its biologics groups in Shanghai and Schlieren, Switzerland, a company spokesperson said Wednesday.
- Novartis also plans to stand up a new unified early discovery research group that will be "closely integrated" with Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research's (NIBR) drug discovery efforts, the spokesperson said. The new unit, dubbed Chemical Biology and Therapeutics, will be based in Basel and Cambridge.
- Additionally, the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases will be relocated from Singapore to Emeryville, CA in a move to consolidate infectious disease research.
Novartis has been busy shaking up its corporate structure.
In May, the company announced it would reorganize its pharmaceutical division, creating a separate oncology drug unit under the umbrella of its Innovative Medicines arm. The restructuring was aimed at placing greater emphasis on Novartis' efforts in oncology, where it has fallen behind market leaders Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck & Co in immuno-oncology.
Then, in a major surprise in late August, Novartis broke up its Cell & Gene Therapies unit, folding the formerly stand-alone group back into the wider company organization. The unit, which had employed 400 staffers, was responsible for Novartis' efforts in developing CAR-T therapies, an area where it was seen as one of the top three or four companies. While the move did not affect Novartis' timeline for its lead CAR-T candidate CTL019, many interpreted the decision as a shift away from the space.
The new moves continue Novartis' efforts to concentrate its drug development efforts.
"A review of our biologics portfolio and organization concluded that our bio-therapeutic expertise is inefficiently spread across our Cambridge, Shanghai, Basel and Schlieren sites," the spokesperson said in an email to BioPharma Dive.
Creating the two new centers in Basel and Cambridge will co-locate the company's early discovery work with disease area and platform teams, according to the spokesperson.
NIBR, headed by Jay Bradner, is based in Cambridge and Basel is the headquarters for the larger Swiss company.
While Novartis did not reveal how many positions would be affected in Shanghai and Schlieren, between 20 and 25 new positions will be opened up in Basel as a result of the restructuring.
The newly created Chemical Biology Therapeutics unit, on the other hand, will combine two existing teams and focus on chemical biology, CRISPR, DNA-encoded libraries and targeted protein degradation in an effort to discover new drug targets, the spokesperson said.
Other big pharmas have made similar efforts to streamline their footprints. Merck, for example, said over the summer it would open two new labs in Cambridge and San Francisco to better focus on emerging science. At the same time, the company revealed it would shutter a screening facility in Pennsylvania and cut back its workforce at two New Jersey sites.
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