Shire orders 500-plus staffers to move to Boston-area biotech 'Mecca'

Shire ($SHPG) is following the biopharma trend of ditching far-flung outposts in favor of a centralized hub, shifting workers from its former U.S. headquarters in Pennsylvania to its Boston-area home base in a move the company believes will better align its sprawling business.

Next year, Shire will start moving about 500 employees from its outpost in Chesterbrook, PA, to its new headquarters in Lexington, MA, bringing workers from its R&D, commercial and business-enabling operations under one roof. Shire plans to complete the process by early 2016, retaining some staff at the Pennsylvania site, which currently employs about 970 people. The company said it expects there will be some layoffs tied to the move but hasn't determined just how many, saying only that it expects to save $25 million a year starting in 2016.

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

The effort is a continuation of the drugmaker's "One Shire" effort, through which the acquisitive company is working to pare down its global reach into two principal locations, in Massachusetts and Switzerland. CEO Flemming Ornskov, who already works out of Lexington, has long preached the virtues of integration, leading the charge to marry Shire's then-disparate R&D operations upon taking the reins in 2013.

In setting sights on Massachusetts, Shire joins a growing list of drug developers allured by the state's booming life sciences cluster, with top-tier research institutions, forward-thinking startups and Big Pharma recon units all packed in by the bay. For Shire, a serial buyout artist with plans to further grow its pipeline, that's an ideal climate, Ornskov told The Boston Globe.

"As we've evolved, we're becoming more biotechy in our approach," Ornskov said. "We think that being in the cluster of the Greater Boston area will help us. What has happened over the past decade is this has become the Mecca for life sciences in the U.S."

The move is Shire's first major announcement since AbbVie's ($ABBV) plot to buy the company for $55 billion fell apart last month, giving the Irish drugmaker a new lease on freedom and a $1.6 billion breakup fee for its trouble. Now Ornskov, who has already presided over 6 acquisitions in his brief tenure, is hinting at more deals to come, pointing to Shire's $4.5 billion deal for ViroPharma last year as a template for the future.

- read the statement
- check out the Globe interview