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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 7, 2010

The Layoff Picture

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Posted by Derek

Here's a look at the layoff numbers in the drug industry, month by month so far this year. September's numbers jumped up, unfortunately, although the whole industry is not shedding jobs at the rate it was earlier this year. We're also behind last year's count, on a year-to-date basis.

Of course, slowing layoffs (if they are) is one thing. When's the last month that the pharma industry actually added head count? We've had a few months this year with very low layoff totals - did any of those go into positive territory overall, or do we have to go further back? I fear the latter, but I don't have the numbers.

Comments (36) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. Ed on October 7, 2010 12:05 PM writes...

Are those global numbers or just the US? Anyone got a tally on numbers lost over the past 5 years?

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2. @Ed on October 7, 2010 12:28 PM writes...

They're for just the US alone. I think FiercePharma may have a 4- or 5-year tally.

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3. anchor on October 7, 2010 1:07 PM writes...

Slower rate of layoff does not mean that "situation is fine". Does that mean "outsourcing" to China and India may be tapering off ?? It gives no comfort to all those chemists, who are still in the job market. I just have that strange feeling that some of these jobs are not coming back, even if there is increased sale volumes.

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4. Another Kevin on October 7, 2010 1:26 PM writes...

Is there any industry or sector in the US that has had any quarter with headcount growth since 2001 or so? I suspect not: we simply are outsourcing all activities in all sectors. In the sectors that can't be outsourced, we're deciding that we can't afford those particular services and abandoning them. (We're all seeing the doctor less, not remodeling our houses, and indulging in fewer entertainments, so healthcare, plumbing and carpentry, and hotel/restaurant/personal services also decline even though they can't be shipped overseas.)

Not a pretty picture; it ends with the fat warlord sitting on his throne amidst the starving peasants.

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5. Pessimist on October 7, 2010 1:54 PM writes...

It doesn't matter which political group (Dem, Rep, or T-Party) we empower this fall or in the future. The US is slowly and painfully descending into developing-country status. How long will it take for economic stress to start eroding the quality of our scientific research?

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6. Dan Barlow on October 7, 2010 4:45 PM writes...

@5: Yes it does matter; Republicans do MUCH more damage to the country when placed in power. The quality of our scientific research has been in decline since the 70s.

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7. Dave on October 7, 2010 5:00 PM writes...

Why do we let these people continually sell-out our countries future? We've seen it all before, and now its happening to us. Whats going to be left?

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8. Pessimist on October 7, 2010 5:35 PM writes...

@6 Dan Barlow: As far as I'm concerned, they're all crooked and equally damaging. W and company plunged us into a pointless war which wrecked our economy, however Mr. Peace Prize O has done little to address unemployment. Billy Boy and the Rep congress (strange bedfellows) initiated the H1-B tidal wave and derugulated our financial institutions. The nonstop outsourcing to China is one potent legacy of the Nixon administration. At least Eisenhower had good intentions (interstate highways and warning us about the military-industrial complex). As desperate as the Delawarians get, electing a wannabe wicca won't convince Astra Zeneca to reconsider shutting down!

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9. Basic on October 7, 2010 6:49 PM writes...

According to the BLS and ACS the unemployment rate amongst chemists is only 3%.

Just remember a basic economic principle: 'supply makes its own demand'

Since unemployment for chemists is low, this implies hundreds of new start ups are sprouting up to employ the recently unemployed. I really don't know why you are all complaining. My chemistry Prof tells me everything is fine.

You have nothing to complain about.

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10. @Basic on October 7, 2010 7:30 PM writes...

Ha ha, nice try. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. It has always been at war with Eurasia.

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11. ss on October 7, 2010 7:42 PM writes...

@3 anchor

I dont think that outsourcing to India is the reason for the layoff figures at this point. India's top chemistry services provider Syngene recently laid off 150 chemists due to lack of projects.

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12. Jose on October 7, 2010 11:49 PM writes...

Interesting to see the other big layoff sectors have been govt and retail, both having massive numbers of employees. Wonder what the layoff % for the three would look like?

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13. Sundowner on October 8, 2010 7:17 AM writes...

Just returned from the CPhI. Some people told me that AstraZeneca has a lot of chemists (three zeros) working for then in India, and they are not happy with the results (maaaany problems), but they are still outsourcing there anyway. The fat warlord only knows about costs... science is secondary. But I suppose I am biased.

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14. Nick K on October 8, 2010 11:45 AM writes...

@Sundowner: I posed a question on this blog a couple of months ago, and maybe you can answer it: how many clinical candidates have actually been discovered in India and China? Outsourcing to these countries has been going on for some years and one would expect to see some results by now.

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15. Ana on October 8, 2010 2:23 PM writes...

The layoff number should drop after October since the CEO should have achieved the bonus performance level in cost saving.

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16. Anonymous on October 8, 2010 5:17 PM writes...

more LAYOFFS are comming. FTL

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17. The end is nigh on October 8, 2010 5:19 PM writes...

Breaking News: Sanofi-Aventis to Cut 1700 US Jobs

And it's not just the sales folks!

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18. Boghog on October 8, 2010 5:21 PM writes...

The bad news just never stops. Now pharma is cutting in anticipation of M&As:

Sanofi to Eliminate 25 Percent of U.S. Pharmaceutical Workforces

What Is Behind the Genzyme Job Cuts?

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19. Dislikes airheads on October 9, 2010 9:19 AM writes...

At least the airhead VP who laid me off from my efforts to improve R&D in the mid decade got laid off herself a year or so later (contract not renewed). She hampered R&D because she did not understand biomedicine. It was embarrassing that I had to explain the value of tools like SciFinder to a pharma VP.

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20. watcher on October 9, 2010 10:31 AM writes...

And, why would you think the trend will reverse?

And to be more realistic, these numbers only capture where there have been acknowledgement for job losses. The total numbers across industry worldwide are certainly larger when including hidden attrition. For example, in my company, there have been hundreds of job cuts worldwide at department levels through forced budget restrictions, reorganizations in the name of efficiency, divesting of small isolated specialty (eg technology and IT) groups, which are never announced formally to the world at large. Ten people here, 17 there. There was a time, not too many years ago, where lab space was at a premium, groups would argue, posture, debate about how much floor space they needed, bench inches each scientist needed. Now, labs are empty, dark, quiet, ghost towns. Its can be eerie.

Even when asked, the head of R&D, and the CEO will never give numbers for total staff members reduced. But if one follows citations in public documents over the course of several years, the total of people in R&D has been reduced substantively...and these will always be out of day, reflecting what was done last year, the year before.

For those of you who think it will reverse, you need to find a new medicine to wake you up to reality. Expansion & growth takes new drugs, more cash flow, expanded profits, ability to maintain and expand dividends to stock holders in order to support a new expansion toward larger R&D. All of these remain ongoing challenges for every major big Pharma.

The good times have rolled.

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21. JHC on October 9, 2010 5:33 PM writes...

As the New York Times states in the below link (the elite bullhorn).

"I don’t see how Americans are worse off by letting some technologies be developed and manufactured by foreigners who can do it more efficiently"

So, please find employment elsewhere. Only MBAs and Lawyers need to be Americans. Psss.. American scientists are not true Americans, you're really ground slugs.

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22. anom on October 9, 2010 11:14 PM writes...

Let me acquaint you with John. Lets look at John’s life. In high school, he was a great student, although kind of nerdy. While his jock buddies were going to parties and meeting cheerleaders, he was studding hard. He had AP chemist and math. His friend Jack was flunking history while blowing bong hits in the back of class. It didn’t bother John, he did the right things and knew his studying and hard work would pay off. He felt bad for Jack. He thought his future was bleak.
Upon graduation, John attended college. Being a lower middle class student, he had to pay full tuition while working part-time. He studied chemistry, since he was good at it. Working part-time and taking chemistry kept his hands full. He met his friend Tom, who was premed.
While his friends were attending frat parties, John was working hard. Being a chemistry major, he had tow ork extra hard with lab reorts and classes. While his friend Jack was an apprentice as a plumber. John knew his hard work would pay off, and he eventually got into grad school, notwithstanding being $75,000 in dept.
Grad school was a lot of work. He worked in the typical big name synthetic group, which required 80+ hours a week. John didn’t mind, because this got him a god post-doc. His post doc was the same, low pay and a lot of hours. His friend Jack, in the meantime, now was working hard as a plumber, while his friend Tom was an intern.
Upon completing his post –doc, John was the lucky 20% who got a job at as Parma company. After 10 years as a med chemist, John was unfortunately laid off. Meanwhile, his friend Jack now had his house paid off and had his own company. Tom was a successful doctor. Due to the hideous job market, John discovered that he was unemployable, especailly since he was over 40. Because he was still in dept for student loans and house payments, he eventually became an employee for Jack. John’s wife left him, because she percieved him as a loser, and he still is paying child support. Johns screwed up his life by doing all of the right things. What kills him is this situation was avoidable, only if the US government would turn off the H1-B visa picket, or if the pharma company would stop targeting PhDs as disposable workers. Why bright students continue to go into this field is beyond me.

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23. Anonymous on October 10, 2010 1:00 AM writes...


Your observations are spot on the mark. US kids who go into science are headed for the life you describe. I know, that was almost exactly my life. Why would anyone with half a brain sign up for this POS when being a plumber or lawyer can give you the good life in America at a fraction of the personal price? Oh yeah I forgot, we are just molecular artists and starving is what art is all about.

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24. Anonymous on October 10, 2010 8:13 AM writes...


But the story continues.

The US economy heads into a steep decline. No-one is making anything that the rest of the world wants to buy. The housing market crashes. Suddenly no-one is fixing up their house any more. The plumbing business dies. Jack's business goes to the wall, and now both Jack and John are unemployed. No-one can afford to pay for healthcare anymore. Tom discovers that even medicine doen's pay as his practice goes bust. Ten years later, they do get work assembling components for a Chinese electronics company who've decided to outsource their production to the US, as labour costs and working conditions in the US have dropped to an all-time low. John, Jack and Tom all work on the assembly line until they die.

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25. Anon on October 10, 2010 3:12 PM writes...

#24 to continue the picture:

Tom was sued on frivolous charges and lost everything. Now Obamacare will turn doctors into high paid slaves, who will retire and be replaced with "physician extenders" anyway.

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26. Anonymous on October 10, 2010 9:18 PM writes...

Death from 1000 cuts...humm sounds familiar. I wish everyone the best in this difficult situation.

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27. FMC on October 11, 2010 2:27 AM writes...

@ 22: if you want to reduce this discussion to an H1-B visa problem, then I sincerely feel sorry for you, as the fine CV you have been describing can also very easily be used for your European contemporaries.
I am of the opinion that the current problems our industry is facing are mainly to be traced back to some strange and utterly incomprehensible decisions "upstream".

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28. Sanofi Guy on October 11, 2010 4:55 AM writes...

I'm Cut...

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29. Chemjobber on October 11, 2010 8:01 AM writes...

Sanofi guy: Any comments on the recent ad for oncology chemistry associates in C&EN?

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30. anon on October 11, 2010 12:06 PM writes...

I am very surprised and dismayed to hear so many people complainging about US H1-B visas. As a former holder of one (and now US citizen), people should understand that the "free trade" poicies that the US championed from the early 80's devastated agriculture and other industry in multiple developing countries, plunging many lives into poverty and despair. Free trade also meant that these same countries were relegated to chaos and "permanent servitude" where developing internal industries were impossible.

I guess payback is a b!@#h. Many professionals who wanted to pursue scientific careers migrated to the West, particularly to the US. Nowadays, scientists in the west have to head east for jobs. How ironic.......

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31. Ed on October 11, 2010 1:08 PM writes...

As if the job market in the UK wasn't bad enough, GSK (having laid off a huge number of highly skilled UK chemists over the past 3 years) are now back recruiting......undergraduate chemistry students.

I hear word that upwards of 40% of current chemistry GSKers in Stevenage are placement students. Is that true? If so, so much for their "skills shortage" crapola of a few years ago.

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32. Ed on October 11, 2010 1:10 PM writes...

PS Chris Moody you are a world class eejit

"This collaboration represents a unique opportunity to ... develop the UK's chemistry talent."

What a numpty.

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33. Anonymous on October 11, 2010 4:31 PM writes...

I like the line where it says if the students patent something they can get royalties from it. What a joke.

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34. Johnboy on October 11, 2010 10:18 PM writes...

The big Pharma in NC has a continuous program of right-sizing; for the last few years they've observed the holiday season by letting people interview for their jobs. To avoid the negative press they lay off staff in small numbers, but it is a continuous process. Out of the other side of their mouth they have the Community Alliance stuffed shirts donating piles of money to science education, and parroting how Pharma needs scientists for tomorrow's workforce. It's starting to resemble a sick parody of Kafka's Penal Colony - by the time these kids invest their time & money to be able to work in a lab, it will be at that time they find out there's no jobs for them.

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35. viv on October 15, 2010 5:18 PM writes...

Eli Lilly will be closing the Lilly Singapore Centre for Drug Discovery by the end of the year, according to an email sent out this morning by Jonathon Sedgwick, Managing Director & Chief Scientific Officer, Lilly Singapore Centre for Drug Discovery (LSCDD).

The email, addressed to members of the Singapore scientific community, stated that LSCDD will cease operations in Singapore and the site will
close by the end of 2010. Most of the ongoing drug discovery, biomarker, and computational sciences work will be transitioned to the
U.S., said Sedgwick, as well as relocating "some of the key talent we recruited [in Singapore] to Corporate HQ [in Indianapolis, Indiana] to maintain continuity around the work initiated and developed at LSCDD."
Sedgwick said that Lilly hopes to retain as many scientific collaborations with the Singapore community into 2011 as possible.

Sedgwick expressed disappintment, however noted, "We are also very aware of the challenges Lilly faces in the next few years and that on
occasion, difficult decisions will be made to ensure our R&D organization is structured best to develop novel medicines for

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36. Claudine Rydberg on August 18, 2012 9:59 AM writes...

obviously like your web-site but you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the reality then again I'll surely come back again.

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