Amgen cuts back at US pilot plant

pharmafile | April 16, 2009 | News story | Manufacturing and Production Amgen 

The worlds largest biotech company, Amgen, is cutting 100 staff at its production facility in Bothell, Washington, as part of a consolidation of its manufacturing network.

The Bothell facility focuses on process development and serves as a pilot plant to make supplies for Amgen's clinical trials of pipeline products. That activity will now be centralised at the biotech giant's plant in Thousand Oaks, California.

The Bothell unit was acquired along with Immunex in 2002 in a deal which brought rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel (etanercept), which made $3.6 billion last year, into Amgen's portfolio.  

Around 50 jobs at the site were lost towards the end of 2007 as part of a major restructuring at Amgen designed to shed 2,600 positions worldwide. That decision represented a reversal of fortunes for the Bothell unit which had earlier been expected to double in size as part of a major investment programme by the company.

Around 70 staff will remain at the Bothell facility in July once the latest round of layoffs is completed, according to local press reports. Amgen currently employs around 700 people in Washington state as a whole, both at Bothell and Amgens headquarters in Seattle, down from around 1,100 in 2007. The company has around 17,000 staff worldwide.

Amgen said its action does not signal a major new restructuring programme, but the move is in keeping with a general trend towards downsizing in the biotechnology sector, according to investment company Burrill & Co.

The April edition of the Burrill report identifies 90 companies that have announced a restructuring of some kind  either staff cuts or shelving drug development projects – in the first quarter of the year.

"Our prediction that biotech would face tough times during 2009 and into 2010 is, unfortunately playing out as financing and investor support remain in short supply," said Burrill.



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