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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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March 16, 2011

More Bad News in the UK: Novartis Horsham

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Posted by Derek

As had been rumored, Novartis seems to be drastically cutting back on their site in Horsham, UK. Respiratory research will continue there, but the manufacturing center seems to be out, with a loss of over 500 jobs. . .

The past few years have been bad ones for this industry, but on a per capita basis, it's probably been worse in the UK than anywhere else.

Comments (35) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. anonymous on March 16, 2011 3:53 PM writes...

Maybe pharmas' backlash against all the negative NICE decisions.

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2. CMCguy on March 16, 2011 4:14 PM writes...

I had the same reaction as #1. As bad as US Pharma is going if drastic price controls occur then would imagine it would accelerate reductions.

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3. Nick K on March 16, 2011 4:33 PM writes...

Unfortunately, closure of R and D almost invariably follows closure of manufacturing on a site. Folk in Respiratory should start updating their CV's and preparing to jump.

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4. Geep on March 16, 2011 5:22 PM writes...

Excellent, move whats left to cambridge WHERE THERE ARE NO HOUSES. Its not as if there are massive amounts of ex-industrial university towns with tons of cheap housing desperate for any biotech whatsoever.

Terrible for novartis. Wonder when the uk government is going to wake up and punish companies that shut down operations, and want to sell their product here.

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5. Anonymous on March 16, 2011 6:00 PM writes...

I tend to agree with #3. The writing appears to be on the wall for the site as a whole...

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6. Anonymous on March 16, 2011 9:58 PM writes...

Sadly the only surprise in this story is that NV are not shutting the entire site now.

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7. BeNiceToSmurf on March 17, 2011 12:51 AM writes...

Get used to it - NICE is the future of healthcare.

The closures have NOTHING to do with NICE, they are the logical consequence of poor reserach ROI.

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8. Ed on March 17, 2011 2:01 AM writes...

It's worse in the UK for sure - a perfect storm of Big Pharma site closures (too many to recall now) as well as a paucity of biotechs/startups to pick up the slack (chronic crapness, endless list of significant failures, lack of ROI). Oftentimes, those startups that have emerged over the past five years are outsourcing synthetic work.

UK chemists have their own particular issues as well, with EU-nationals (all 500 million of them) free to move here for work, no visa required.

The odd short-term contract job working for a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery project in a uni lab really isn't much compensation (even those are massively competitive).

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9. Tony on March 17, 2011 4:43 AM writes...

Geep raises and interesting point. Can we punish the companies? I wouldn't suggest calling it 'punishing', but we could introduce a relocation / restructuring tax for profitable companies that choose to exit. Companies going bust is a different matter.

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10. ChemDrone on March 17, 2011 4:58 AM writes...

Ed: Aren't UK chemists entitled to seek work EU-wide in return?

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11. Chemjobber on March 17, 2011 6:13 AM writes...

It's cold comfort, but those in the UK looking for work may be interested in my British cousin, LabMonkey, at

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12. anon on March 17, 2011 8:42 AM writes...

More of the signs of the times. Sorry for the staff who are impacted.But, in contrast to #4 who wants artificial protectionism to support Pharmaceutical research in the UK, I certainly don't see that the gov should be protecting jobs for industrial investment that is no longer being as productive as it once was thought to be. That, pure and simple, slaps in the face of good business practice.

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13. Ed on March 17, 2011 8:48 AM writes...

#10 - yes we are, but there is generally a pronounced asymmetry, in that those Europeans will usually have a working knowledge English (learned from primary school level), whereas the UK chemist has a choice of French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish etc etc.

As a result, the other big players, the German based companies - e.g. Merz, Grunenthal, Merck, S-A Frankfurt, Bayer-Schering, BASF, aren't typically particularly welcoming to anyone from outside their system, even though the company language may be officially English.

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14. Roberto Ros on March 17, 2011 9:03 AM writes...

Ed, just say, immigration is to blame ... and now you know how those that you consider your intellectual inferiors come to certain conclusions. By the way, nothing ever stopped you learning German or French, and any French or German company would welcome you with open arms if you are what you need.

I think the endemic problem in the UK is the lack of creativity and the embrace of the "Yes Sir" culture, this is symptomatic of most corporations, but does have a much bigger impact in organisations where innovation and originality are key. The situation has spiraled over the last decade, regulation, wrong and constant change of direction ... all of it contributing to a lack of new medicines, and ultimately closures.

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15. geep on March 17, 2011 10:20 AM writes...

get a grip anon.

You employ 500 people to make a drug that sells well in the uk. You then sack 500 people who make the thing and the government now pays unemployment benefits and housing benefit at around £800 month, meaning £400,000 per month the taxpayer has to pay because johnny Novartis and pfizer decided it was cheaper to go to china.

Why should the company be allowed to continue to sell its drug here? You cant shut down jobs, expect the taxpayer to pick up the bill AND continue to sell in the lucrative western market you just decimated! I think they should chip in for the bill, dontcha think? Or is it private profit public losses are per usual, because thats what the 'free' market really means.

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16. Ed on March 17, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

#14 - didn't say immigration is to blame, I said it was an issue, but feel free to play whatever other "racist" cards you have up your sleeve.

Do you deny that the de facto use of the English language in business/science makes it is a compounding factor for UK chemists, and one that makes the European employment scenario asymmetric?

And don't start with that "nothing ever stopped you learning German" bullshit, because
a) I am learning German (doesn't make much difference by the way)
b) do I have to learn Hungarian too (just in case)?
c) do I have to learn Spanish as well (just in case)?
d)-z) insert European language of choice here.....

And please don't deign to put words in my mouth (or thoughts in my head)....
"and now you know how those that you consider your intellectual inferiors" only makes your arguments even more ridiculous.

You think the problem with the UK is the lack of creativity? Putting aside the issue of your use of such a fantastically broad-brush insinuation, have you never heard of the industrial revolution? Boyle? Stephenson? Logie Baird? Dunlop? Dyson? Watt? James Black? Lister? Maxwell? You want me to go on here?


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17. MedChem on March 17, 2011 11:18 AM writes...

14. Roberto Ros

Excellent post! Innovation does NOT come from great management. I've seen first hand what a total annihilating effect a big-pharma yes-man culture does to a thriving creative culture.

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18. Ricardo Ros on March 17, 2011 12:08 PM writes...

Ed, re-read my post. I do think the UK is a great country, never said the opposite, electronics, engineering sectors prove it continuously. I blame the diseases of some big corporations (ultra positivism, micromanagement ...) for suffocating the creativity that chemists and biologists try to show.

It is the nationalist speech which really gets to me, you rather have no competition at all? I think that any country becomes richer by the influence of other cultures. And I would say that science is the area where the benefit is clearer.

The problem, many chemists have turn into cooks and do not show the qualities of a chef. I do know who gets paid the more.

Now drop the rage, is only the internet.

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19. Jason N on March 17, 2011 12:26 PM writes...

@14 roberto said- "I think the endemic problem in the UK is the lack of creativity and the embrace of the "Yes Sir" culture,"

Agreed, which is why filling US labs with Chinese is part of the reason US pharma is dying.

It can be argued the Chinese were one of the first 'sophisticated' civilizations. Yet their society stagnated due to a hierarchical/ feudal type organization which placed a high premium on obedience to the aristocracy.

Thousands of years of breeding this kind of mindset (literally and culturally) , produces a society enriched with 'yes men'. You can also see that our academic tenure system encourages the same kind of stagnation.

--the idea that Germans would give any US citizen's resume the same weight as a native is laughable. They take care of their own, and if they don't unemployment is a nice second career.

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20. Ricardo Ros on March 17, 2011 12:58 PM writes...

This is the kind of thing that alienates people:

Always did help me feeling comfortable when tackling a problem, or trying to come out with something new. I have seen the consequences of this approach in other companies, hope GSK stops this.

Regarding the effect that has in a foreigner working in a different country, yes it is like you describe Jason, but I do not agree with your analysis. I think that in Asia, the concept of respecting experience and age is king, that can be something good or bad (I remember having a conversation with a S.Korean friend, and after a few beers he told me - you know you guys got a few things the wrong way around, for example we send dogs to homes and live with our grandparents, and not the other way around- that stuck). But the mechanisms to challenge ideas/opinions should be always there. Starting the war of civilisations is something that will be penalised by Derek ;-)

Regarding the weight of resumes, it is the same everywhere, once your CV's content is over certain tonnage, believe me, you will get the job if you are the right person for it, anywhere.

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21. Anonymous on March 17, 2011 2:00 PM writes...

I agree with #4. Why do they keep going to Boston? The cost of living is so high they force their workers to live a quality of life significantly lower than they otherwise could.

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22. Petros on March 17, 2011 2:29 PM writes...

GI R&D gone too apparently. The site is mostly focused on respiratory disease though.

And the Sandwich staff will be leaving their site in a very short space of time!

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23. Anon on March 17, 2011 4:02 PM writes...

Sorry GEEP. I have a very good grip of today's Pharama R&D econmics, from big to small. You need to back off and see the forest landscape instead of the single tree in front of your face.

So, let me extend your concept in that you'd propose that every country's products should only be sold proportionally internally---eg no international trade, no exchange of inventions, no movement of raw materials and goods to be assembled in different countries, etc, etc.....

Sorry bud, that is not the way today's world economy works.

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24. Flop on March 17, 2011 6:27 PM writes...

"Sorry bud, that is not the way today's world economy works. "

Yeah, todays e-CON-o-ME works by having the electronic herd (mysterious "investors") jerk the chains of another herd called the stupid working idiots (dunce taxpayers, sorry esteemed chemists) like cattle because they are so stupid they can't possibly understand what that dollar bill in their pocket actually represents. Oh I'm sorry, I forgot the official explanation "Its the evil MBA's". Har har, talk about naive. Enjoy serfdom.

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25. B on March 18, 2011 12:53 AM writes...

I don't know what you're all worrying about.

The UK government have promised a "new action plan" for the industry. Hurrah - we're saved!

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26. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 3:22 AM writes...

Jesus, we really have become a bunch of whining bastards haven't we?
When did we start thinking that the government or industry or *anyone* owes us a living?

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27. Percy on March 18, 2011 3:45 AM writes...

I agree with #14 and 19 English scientists are actually flooding Sweden at the moment and they have been coming for many years now creating a Yes Sir culture leaving the best pieces of Swedish culture behind as consensus transparency. Instead I see culture as impression making and Yes Sir flourishing

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28. Hap on March 18, 2011 1:02 PM writes...

The government's interest starts with no jobs = no taxes (do you think any of the outsourced revenue generates taxes at home?). Also, when your government has spent (and is spending) lots of money to train people for jobs that may not exist (and who will probably be as result rather frustrated), that might be a matter of concern.

I still haven't figured out how no jobs + no education adds up to the new economic model for paradise. If you figure it out, please re to John Kasich in OH.

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29. Anon on March 18, 2011 2:30 PM writes...

People can be stupid & naive, assumptive and critical or rather be aware, open-eyed & realistic. I pick the latter.

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30. jb on March 21, 2011 8:32 PM writes...

Hi Ed,

Just like to agree with you there. Often a clique
of certain nationals prevents doors being opened.
even in UK research labs, thats just the way cliques behave.
Anyhow this thread was about Novartis canning 500 jobs. Like they say, these things come in threes
GSK next? Med. chem in the uk il est mort.

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31. Anonymous on June 27, 2011 4:51 AM writes...

A grievance has been raised against Novartis Horsham by its own employees ( 150 signatures ) they have also hired a solicitor with there own cash not sure what it is about but there is real unrest and true hatred towards a company that promises to look after its staff.

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32. Anonymous on July 1, 2011 11:52 AM writes...

The grievance is about that in late 2009, unknown to any one, Novartis UK changed their redundancy payments for all UK staff, except those in Liverpool as they are in a Union! They are getting twice what the rest of the UK get.

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33. Semi-Auto Sam on July 2, 2011 1:43 AM writes...

The staff are well pissed, as they quite rightly should be - they have also been mislead in addition to being prejudiced. Novartis have to keep the factory going for 2 years, not a hope at this rate. But HR thinks they can just get temps in because workers are just numbers, such a caring company..

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34. Anon E Muss on July 2, 2011 1:47 AM writes...

go out on strike then! I know you won't get paid cos youre not in a union but what you got to lose?

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35. Anonymous on July 2, 2011 3:41 AM writes...

An non-unionised strike is unlawful it has been considered.

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