Biogen Idec trims R&D staff, looks for new talent in chemistry, neurology

Biogen Idec took a look at its R&D group and decided to trim out a small group of its research staffers on Thursday. A spokesperson for the company said today that about 20 staffers were axed following a review of the company's long-term goals.

"There has been no reduction to our R&D workforce," Biogen ($BIIB) said in a statement sent to FierceBiotech. "As we plan for the future, we took a close look at our chemistry and neurology research teams and determined that some skillsets did not align with our long term goals. Unfortunately, as part of this assessment some employees will be leaving Biogen Idec. We sincerely appreciate their contributions and are taking meaningful steps to support their transition and help them find their next career opportunity.

"We plan to hire new employees in both areas to ensure we have the right capabilities to execute on our longterm strategy."

Word of the layoffs first circulated on Derek Lowe's influential blog, In the Pipeline, on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesperson declined to say just how many R&D workers there are at Biogen Idec, but the company as a whole has a workforce of more than 7,500.

Biogen has been growing its operation around Kendall Square, where CEO George Scangos moved soon after taking the helm close to 5 years ago. And by all accounts, it's been a period of growth and success, in the clinic and on the market as the company's market cap swelled to $95 billion.

Biogen Idec's sales have been surging as its blockbuster MS drug Tecfidera gobbled up market share and the company consolidated its leadership position in MS while gaining new approvals in hemophilia. The company has disappointed Wall Street at times, failing to match analysts' projections on Tecfidera's sales growth, but revenue last year jumped to $9.7 billion, a spike from $6.9 billion in 2013.

R&D remains interesting at Biogen, with its early-stage Alzheimer's drug, BIIB037, attracting lots of attention ahead of a conference later this month in which it will more carefully review data. A new drug for remyelination is also in the clinic that's been attracting considerable attention. R&D costs jumped from $1.4 billion to $1.9 billion, which was 17% of product revenue, not out of line with what Wall Street would expect.