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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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August 1, 2012

Cuts at Bristol-Myers Squibb

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Posted by Derek

I'm told that BMS is cutting scientific staff today in New Jersey as they refocus some of their therapeutic areas. More details as I get them (or in the comments below).

Update: there are cuts in the metabolic disease area. The company apparently feels that traditional diabetes drug discovery has become a challenging area, both because it's become increasingly well-served and because the regulatory/clinical path has become much more difficult in recent years. . .

Update #2: the company has now confirmed that it has eliminated "fewer than 100" positions, but is giving no further details. In lieu of those, it has chosen, like so many other organizations, to inform the world that it ". . .is strategically evolving the company’s Research focus to ensure the delivery of a sustainable, innovative drug pipeline in areas of serious unmet medical need and potential commercial growth," and that it "is aligning and building internal capabilities. . ." In case you were wondering.

Comments (40) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. petros on August 1, 2012 7:28 AM writes...

A depressingly familiar story.

The closed GSK Harlow labs are currently the Olympic drugs testing labs and are now announced as becoming the world's first Phenome Centre!

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2. Quintus on August 1, 2012 9:07 AM writes...

They want to refocus on keeping their main asset.
The leaders must be called to account for things like this.
Government MUST do something.

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3. Carlos on August 1, 2012 10:06 AM writes...

Out of consideration for the affected employees and the managers who have to handle this, I suggest you refrain from speculation and gossip and stick to scientific subject matter. Granted this is an easy way to garner attention and interest in your blog but I recommend that you seek respect instead, and hold yourself to a higher ethical standard.

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4. Anonymous on August 1, 2012 10:20 AM writes...

#3 Carlos, if you don't like it, don't come. Go to ACS for high standard.

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5. Anonymous on August 1, 2012 10:22 AM writes...

#3 Carlos. If you don't like it, don't come to this blog. Go to ACS for your high standard.

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6. Anonymous on August 1, 2012 10:24 AM writes...

#3 Carlos. If you don't like it, don't come to this blog. Go to ACS for your high standard.

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7. Quintus on August 1, 2012 10:28 AM writes...

@Carlos: screw the managers, they knew this could happen when they took their jobs. And screw you for your stupid comments.
Dr. Lowe does not need to get attention, he has deservedly earned it himself by the quality of the posts one receives day in day out.

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8. anony on August 1, 2012 10:32 AM writes...

#3 Carlos, puhlease.

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9. okemist on August 1, 2012 11:08 AM writes...

Hey Carlos, Dr. Lowe has nothing but empathy and respect for the difficulties of scientists who have lost jobs at pharma having gone through it himself from the same company that downsized me as well. This blog is not only for discussion of facinating science, but for the real people who do the science. I think the common thread is the experience of trying to get new drugs to people and the obsticles we face.

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10. NoDrugsNoJobs on August 1, 2012 11:14 AM writes...

Thanks for the update Derek, I have friends there and hope they are not affected. Its been a terrible several years for big pharma medchemists, hasn't it?

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11. BFR on August 1, 2012 1:28 PM writes...

It isn't just NJ. The axe fell for a few at BMS's Wallingford site today too.

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12. Wasted degree on August 1, 2012 3:17 PM writes...

Welcome aboard my fellow laid-off chemists. Keep your chin up.

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13. CR on August 1, 2012 3:59 PM writes...

@7, Quintos:

"screw the managers, they knew this could happen when they took their jobs. And screw you for your stupid comments."

Wow... Couldn't you also say "screw the workers" as well? I mean, don't we all know that job cuts can happen when we take our jobs?

I'm not defending managers (although, these middle managers usually aren't actually making the decisions to cut people, they just have to figure out who) - I just don't understand the disdain from Quintos? The other comment about stupid comments is a bit uncalled for... We're all in this together, you know.

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14. Sugar Ray on August 1, 2012 5:29 PM writes...

I wonder about this idea that diabetes has become a solved problem. For sure the regulatory hurdles are ridiculous but try asking diabetes patients if they are adequately treated.

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15. Tough times on August 1, 2012 5:31 PM writes...

BMS was kind of a expected candidate. Two mega-major drugs went off patent this year with the corresponding losses of income that should be starting to show in the books. Add to that the bumps in the regulatory approval of Forxiga and Eliquis, and just a matter of time to see some "budget refocusing" processes in action. I wonder if the Process folks are also affected or only Discovery.
Best of luck for those affected in finding new jobs and career paths.

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16. Anonymous BMS Researcher on August 1, 2012 7:33 PM writes...

There were cuts in both NJ and CT including some people in Virology and Neuroscience with whom I have worked quite closely. Not the best of days.

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17. drug_hunter on August 1, 2012 7:56 PM writes...

Sorry to hear about this - ugly times, indeed.

"Fewer than 100 people" is a fairly small percentage of BMS total research staff ... could this be a "general housekeeping" of low-performing staff? Are entire disease areas actually being shut down? Are scientists being offered the chance to move from one disease area to another? Curious to hear from someone with Actual Knowledge of the situation ...

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18. In Vivo Veritas on August 1, 2012 9:09 PM writes...

Drug_Hunter -
If only it was low performers. Central NJ lost leaders & high performers right along with the average & the poor. CV, Met Disease, Oncology, Virology, Neuro, etc. They might say it's refocusing the groups, but it' more like downsizing.

NME metrics remain unchanged, of course.

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19. Archi Maning on August 1, 2012 10:23 PM writes...

laying off less than 100 people has been BMS' frequently used tactics which avoids to violate some NJ regulation.

Sorry for all who are affected. Yeah, keep your chin up! Hope the best!

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20. Anonymous BMS Researcher on August 2, 2012 6:57 AM writes...

I wish this were just clearing deadwood, but at least two of the people hit this time are individuals for whom I have considerable respect. In this and previous rounds of cuts, sometimes I have been able to figure out why a certain person got hit, but sometimes I have NOT. When I cannot figure out why somebody got hit, that scares me because if I cannot figure out why I am still here and others are not then it is hard for me to know what exactly I should keep doing, stop doing, or start doing.

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21. Anonymous on August 2, 2012 7:39 AM writes...

The deadwood at the pharma companies was all cleared in the earlier rounds of layoffs - they cut all the fat a few years ago, and have been cutting muscle and bone since.

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22. Wasted degree on August 2, 2012 8:05 AM writes...

@20 Start determining which hobbies you have that you can profit from.

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23. eugene on August 2, 2012 8:13 AM writes...

"Out of consideration for the affected employees and the managers who have to handle this, I suggest you refrain from speculation and gossip and stick to scientific subject matter. Granted this is an easy way to garner attention and interest in your blog but I recommend that you seek respect instead, and hold yourself to a higher ethical standard."

Yes, because some anonymous disrespectful nothing named Carlos, probably from BMS, can give you good advice on how to run a blog and high ethical standards. I can already see the droves of readers leaving "In The Pipeline" because they feel that the constant 'news-y' information gets in the way of the real stuff. You know, like 'Stuff I won't work with' or 'Amyloid ride again for Alzheimers'.

Why the hell would it be disrespectful to put a post up on job losses in some company, or to speculate about the future of medicinal chemistry (which wasn't done with this post). What, you want us to wait until the managers talk about it with the ones fired? Maybe some of the BMS managers hate the company and the culture and that caused the info leaks, and now you don't want that little fact known? You comment, Carlos, puts BMS and the managers involved in a lot more shit than the original post did.

I suggest you don't try to give suggestions ever again. I also suggest BMS gets back to real capitalism of trying to make a product and sell it, instead of stock market shenanigans, double-speak, and vague threats on the Internets.

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24. Hap on August 2, 2012 10:09 AM writes...

1) I think management would have more grounds to complain about internet posts of rumors of their layoffs if they were more open to their workers and to others about them themselves, or if they showed any other behaviors that actually correlated with care for their workers, shareholders, or customers. Also, it would help if they didn't insist on dragging what's left of their companies' reputations through the mud. All those actions would inhibit short-term profits, though. Can't have that.

2) I love it when companies talk about "aligning and building internal capabilities. . ." by layoffs. How? Have they discovered antimatter, a way to convert the jobs that were just erased into jobs in an antimatter universe, or have they figured out how to harness a vacuum for energy?

Of course, the "internal" is supposed to comfort workers that "no, we didn't just outsource your jobs to China and India". Sure.

3) As a positive, though, In The Pipeline seems to be a preferred soapbox for at least two different company PR shills - I guess that could be considered flattering.

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25. Shanedorf on August 2, 2012 12:08 PM writes...

BMS had a Partnering Road Show in San Diego back in May and talked about their plans to strategically under-staff and under-fund each of their therapeutic areas. The VP of Strategic Partnering spoke about how they were going to continue to in-license and acquire drugs & companies from outside their walls.
All of the Big Pharma players are getting between 45-70% of their pipeline from external sources, so they will continue to reshape and re-size the internal programs accordingly. They all know their own pipelines and patent cliffs and the only way forward was to bring in outside portfolios that are sufficiently advanced to meet the revenue requirements they need to replace the blockbusters they lost. Amylin, Amira and others were purchased for those reasons and it will continue across the board, not only at BMS, but all of Big Pharma

Additionally, as the Big Pharma companies push more and more R&D to their CRO partners and offshore sites, the internal staff will continue to be downsized here in the US.

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26. exGlaxoid on August 2, 2012 12:19 PM writes...

I'm sorry for all of the BMS people, I know quite a few of them, and some former ones, and I hope they do OK.

But this all sounded familiar and then I realized where I had read this announcement first:

Sounds like almost every pharmaceutical company.

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27. Quintus on August 2, 2012 1:16 PM writes...

@eugene: congratulations for a wonderful post, put eloquently.
I agree 100%.
I feel for the people at BMS who are going through a painful process and wish them all the best.

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28. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on August 2, 2012 1:51 PM writes...

@25 Shanedorf: this "buy your portfolio" approach is fraught with peril as well. Look at BMS's recent acquisition of Inhibitex for $2.5 B that gave them INX-189, a nucleoside HCV replication inhibitor. Today BMS announced suspension of their Phase 2 trial for INX-189 because a patient in the high dose cohort developed heart failure. That news knocked 8% off their market cap today alone. I'm thinking they'd like that $2.5 B back, along with interest!

The cost savings garnered by sacking 100 people ($10 M, maybe?) is a drop in the bucket relative to such mistakes.

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29. petros on August 2, 2012 3:15 PM writes...

But buying companies gives execs (allegedly)the chance for insider trading.
see today's news stories about a BMS executive!

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30. Anonymous on August 2, 2012 4:27 PM writes...

Any med. chemists affected by this layoff? Hope not...with what's going on over at Roche and Merck etc, the NJ med chem market is being devastated...

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31. simpl @25, 28 re outsourcing on August 3, 2012 4:35 AM writes...

As all are outsourcing, there is competition for the best molecules, and your firm must present to innovators as good partners. Negative measures of your long term view include portfolio chopping, dismissals for economic reasons, site closing, and previous outsourcing failures.

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32. @20 on August 3, 2012 8:18 AM writes...

This is well said.

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33. Whatever on August 3, 2012 5:42 PM writes...

Yet, the ACS was still saying in their last issue that students should still go in science programs... (cf: in the editorial). DON'T GO IN SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!! Could it be any clearer???

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34. Anonymous5 on August 4, 2012 4:24 PM writes...

My sources say at least 15-20 med chemists were released, including the originator of the blockbuster dasatinib. Bristol has slowly been moving med chem to their India facility. The entire obesity biology group was also part of the layoffs.

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35. CR on August 5, 2012 10:46 AM writes...

@28, David...

Whether a company gets their clinical candidates from in-licnesing, or from internal efforts the process is fraught with peril. Sure, in hindsight, BMS would love the $2.5 B back; however, there is no guarantee they would have used that money for internal candidates that would have been successful.

You are correct, the cost savings by trimming staff is negligible in the grand scheme of things; but unless BMS knew that INX-189 was going to cause this issue, it's not a "mistake" it's research, there are no guarantees.

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36. Anonymous5 on August 5, 2012 10:35 PM writes...

Bristol has been regularly laying off chemists "under the radar" for almost 10 years, since the bungled DuPont acquisition. The goal is reducing costs while at the same time quietly getting rid of their older, higher-paid workers without lawsuits. This will probably increase since their generic exposure the next few years is extremely high.

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37. Anonymous5 on August 5, 2012 10:51 PM writes...

It is ironic that Americans continue to pay the highest drug prices in the world while more and more of the jobs go overseas. Essentially Americans are funding the R&D to supply the world with drugs and feed corporate profits without the return benefit of good high paying wonder we are failing economically as a nation.

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