Merck Serono's Geneva staffers find new jobs, found new companies

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The news that Merck KGaA was planning to shutter the gleaming Merck Serono facility in Geneva hit hard last year, spurring protests and appeals that went unheeded at the German pharma company. But the company did pledge to do everything it could to help more than 1,000 workers handle the wrenching transition and launched an unusual effort to chronicle the work. Today the company says that they have seen 60%--750 workers--nail down their plans for the future.

Some 280 of the staffers accepted a transfer inside the German Merck. Close to 400 found jobs with other companies in the area, with 38 going to biopharma startups that Merck KGaA helped back with a €30 million fund. And the company expects that more will follow in 2013 as ongoing talks spawn new projects. Finally 80 staffers have agreed to take early retirement.

Just a few days ago Merck KGaA announced that it had signed on as a customer of the newly launched Ondaco Sàrl, an IT consulting firm that is rising out of the ashes in Geneva. Sixteen staffers and contract workers are employed by the startup. The other four startups are Prexton Therapeutics, Quartz Bio, Asceneuron and TQM Insight.

"We continue to follow the situation very closely, and the figures at the start of 2013 are very encouraging," said François Naef, the chairman of Merck Serono. "The credit of course goes above all to the employees for their efforts and skills, and to the vitality of the life sciences sector in the Lake Geneva region, but we believe the various placement initiatives put in place by Merck Serono in collaboration with various stakeholders in the region have also played a substantial part. We are particularly grateful for the efforts by the relevant departments of the Geneva and Vaud cantons."  

A number of major R&D facilities have been closed in recent years as companies reengineered pipelines. Pfizer ($PFE) pink-slipped most of its workers at Sandwich, U.K., and furloughed many more in Connecticut. Roche ($RHHBY) decided to close its operations in Nutley, NJ. But Merck KGaA is alone in keeping track of the fate of the workers affected by layoffs. This ongoing project could serve as a model for others to follow in the future.

- here's the press release

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