UPDATED: Novartis to move R&D tropical disease base out of Singapore, cut Zurich, Shanghai jobs

Novartis will move its Singapore research base for dengue fever and malaria over to California, and is set to reduce headcount at its Zurich facility and its China biologics group.

Originally reported by the Straits Times and followed up by Reuters and the Financial Times, Novartis has confirmed to FierceBiotech that it will be closing down the Shanghai biologics group and shift its Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore to the San Francisco area to centralize its scientists.

It has just under 100 staffers here, but the Swiss company has not said how many it may cut in the process. The changeover will be made over the next year.

In a statement to FierceBiotech, Novartis said: “The establishment of a new research group focusing on discovering new medicines for life threatening respiratory diseases and the relocation of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) from Singapore to Emeryville, CA, where it will be co-located with the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research’s (NIBR) infectious diseases research team.

“NITD will continue to be a NIBR institute focused on the discovery of new medicines to combat malaria and other tropical diseases.”

NIBR President James Bradner told the Straits Times: “It’s a difficult decision. Moving the NITD is really intended to empower the research through the strength of collaborative proximity.”

The Big Pharma added in a statement that: “The move is part of a broader, global strategic plan. We want to co-locate the infectious diseases team together with the tropical diseases team. There are synergies around research collaboration.”

Novartis said it is also setting up two “centers of excellence” for biotherapeutic research in Basel and Cambridge, which will lead to 73 jobs being axed along with the shuttering of Novartis’ Esbatech facility near Zurich, Switzerland.

“The creation of two centers of excellence for bio-therapeutic research in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, MA, will explore new directions for delivering biologic therapies,” the company told me.

“The creation of a unified early discovery research group based in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, MA, will be closely integrated with NIBR’s drug discovery teams around the world.

This team, called Chemical Biology and Therapeutics (CBT), will combine two existing teams and “focus on harnessing the power of chemical biology and other cutting edge technologies” such as CRISPR, DNA encoded libraries and targeted protein degradation to discover new drug targets, Novartis said.

But this will “directly impact the biologics group in Shanghai as well as ESBATech, a biologics unit based in Schlieren, Switzerland, both of which are expected to close.”

It added, however, that it would also create around 30 new jobs at its Basel HQ. This all comes a few months after Novartis announced it was to cut down on its gene and cell therapy R&D work, with around 120 mainly U.S. jobs going in the cull. 

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