Lilly to ax 200 R&D positions globally

Eli Lilly
Lilly is looking for 200 R&D employees to leave voluntarily.

Eli Lilly is working to cut 200 R&D positions. The Big Pharma is framing the action as a “voluntary reallocation program” that will see it reduce its global R&D headcount by nearly 3% while it ups its investment in other areas.

The cuts, news of which was first reported by Stat, follow shortly after Lilly detailed plans to ax 485 employees in response to the failure of its Alzheimer’s trial. But, according to the company, the aim this time is different. Lilly is looking for 200 staffers from multiple R&D sites around the world to voluntarily sign up to leave the company.

While the earlier, larger cuts followed the fading of expectations for solanezumab and subsequent retreat from the program, the latest action is being pitched as a tweaking of the Lilly R&D machine ahead of renewed investment in specific areas of the operation.

“Lilly is focusing its investment in new R&D capabilities to ensure portfolio sustainability. We plan to increase our investment and hire in strategic areas, including molecule-making capabilities, immunology and Alzheimer's disease, across our U.S. research sites later this year,” a spokesperson who confirmed the cuts said in an emailed statement.

The reference to U.S. research sites is notable given the political climate in which Lilly is operating. News of the cuts emerged days after Lilly CEO Dave Ricks talked up  his hiring of manufacturing staff in a meeting with President Donald Trump. Given Trump’s willingness to single out firms for criticism on Twitter and uncertainty over his approach to biopharma, there is value in being seen to be on board with the “America First” approach, particularly as it relates to jobs.

Lilly’s statement also suggests the company is pushing ahead in Alzheimer’s despite the setbacks it has faced. Jobs related to Alzheimer’s research are among the 34 open science positions at Lilly as of today. Lilly is also looking to add a team leader at its neuroscience R&D unit in the U.K.