2024's layoff woes continue in Q2: Fierce Biotech analysis

Just as there’s been little relief from the intense heat scorching much of the world this summer, the biotech industry continues to be burned by layoffs. According to the Fierce Biotech Layoff Tracker, there were 38 layoff announcements in the second quarter of 2024, compared to 36 in the same period during 2023.

The trend has remained consistent for this quarter over the past three years, with 30 reported in the second quarter of 2022. 

While this is lower than the 57 known layoffs announced last quarter, the number for the entire first half has increased more than 50% compared to the first half of 2022. This year is on track to top the 187 total layoffs tracked by Fierce Biotech in 2023.

The total number of known employees affected was also higher this quarter compared to last, with at least 7,616 workers impacted. The first quarter saw a known 2,398 people lose their jobs. However, these numbers are not definitive totals, because some companies only report the percentage of the workforce affected and not the total number of employees laid off. 

Some workforce reductions were massive. Akari laid off two-thirds of staff in May, while Amylyx cut 70% after the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis drug Relyvrio failed in April and was subsequently pulled from the market. June 28 was a particularly dark day, as Ovid laid off 17 employees (43% of the workforce) while fellow East Coast biotech Aerovate slashed 39 positions, a whopping 78% of employees. 

May was the worst month, with 20 layoff rounds compared to 12 in April and only six in June. The May layoffs included some big names, such as Gilead, Pfizer and Bayer, as well as synthetic biology darling Ginkgo Bioworks. The cuts continued a Big Pharma layoff trend that started earlier this year when Novartis laid off 680 employees in April and Bristol Myers Squibb let go 2,220.

One biotech, eFFECTOR, announced a complete shutdown in June, capping off a brutal quarter for employment in the industry.

The data presented here are likely just the tip of the iceberg of the actual layoffs occurring across the industry. We’ve received several layoff tips that haven’t yet been corroborated, while layoffs at private companies are often able to escape scrutiny. As always, if you know of a layoff occurring at a biotech, please reach out to the Fierce Biotech editorial team and let us know.