Amgen to cut 149 staff in retreat from neuroscience R&D

amgen
Amgen plans to continue to participate in the neuroscience field in some way. (Amgen)

Amgen has given notice of its intent to lay off 149 people at its Cambridge, Massachusetts, operation by the end of the year. The notice comes weeks after Amgen revealed it was retreating from its East Coast neuroscience operations in a move that would threaten around 180 jobs.

That plan became official Friday when state authorities in Massachusetts revealed Amgen had submitted a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act note. The note formally signaled Amgen’s intent to cut 149 employees in Cambridge loose at the end of the year. Amgen will retain an operations and process development presence in Massachusetts but is consolidating research back in California.

Amgen focused its Cambridge research site on neuroscience and hired people versed in medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism, genetics, cell biology and and toxicology to staff it. With Amgen exiting neuroscience research, those skills are now largely surplus to requirements.

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The move to exit neuroscience R&D follows the decision by Amgen and its partner Novartis to stop pivotal tests of CNP520 in Alzheimer’s disease. Amgen and Novartis pulled the plug on the program after an interim review linked the BACE inhibitor to a worsening of cognitive function.

While Amgen is pulling out of in-house neuroscience research, the company has plans to continue to participate in the field in some way. Amgen believes its work with deCODE positions it to understand the genetics of neurological disorders, and, while it wants to focus its internal resources elsewhere, it's keen to capitalize on these capabilities in some way.

“Half the genes in the body are expressed in the brain and only the brain and we think we have some unique resources to try to capitalize on insights around that. We'll be exploring potentially different models for doing that with venture capital and perhaps academic institutions as well,” Amgen CEO Bob Bradway said on a quarterly results conference call with investors late last month.

Amgen’s decision to exit neuroscience follows the shuttering of an Eli Lilly facility focused on the field and the spinning out of Pfizer’s pipeline to create Cerevel Therapeutics. 

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