Takeda confirms fallout from gene therapy R&D refocus: up to 186 layoffs

Last month, Fierce Biotech told you about an unknown number of layoffs due to hit Takeda as the Japanese pharma moves away from early-stage R&D work in adeno-associated virus-based gene therapies and rare hematology. Now, we’ve got a better sense of the workforce impact.

As many as 186 employees are set to lose their jobs at the company’s various Massachusetts sites, according to WARN notices issued last week. They include “up to 138” employees across four locations operating under the Takeda Development Centers America brand.

A further 48 employees who work under the Takeda Shire Human Genetic Therapies unit will also lose their jobs, with the bulk of affected workers based at the company's Lexington site. Both sets of layoffs are due to begin in July and potentially continue throughout the year, according to the notices.

Takeda confirmed to Fierce Biotech that the company is making changes “in a few very specific areas of the organization that impact some roles as a result.” But the pharma stressed that “there is no plan for a company-wide reduction.”

“We regularly evaluate our operations and processes as part of our efforts to make sure we are best positioned to meet our current and future priorities,” the company added.

Some form of layoffs have been expected since April, when Takeda confirmed that discovery and preclinical efforts in AAV gene therapy will be discontinued, alongside research and preclinical work in rare hematology. The move was designed to focus resources on core therapeutic areas as well as the company's late-stage clinical programs such as oral TYK2 inhibitor TAK-279.

“We are focused on retaining and providing meaningful work for those whose roles are impacted and where possible, we will reassign individuals to similar roles,” a spokesperson told Fierce at the time.

The confirmation of where and when the Takeda layoffs will hit caps off a tough day for biotech employees at several companies, with Novavax and ADC Therapeutics both using their first-quarter earnings results to reveal reductions in headcount.

With Takeda slated to unveil its first-quarter earnings later this week, analysts will be keen to see whether the Tokyo-based pharma will use the opportunity to flesh out its refocused R&D strategy. Other eager listeners may include Codexis, which is collaborating with Takeda on a potential AAV-based gene therapy for Fabry disease, and Selecta Biosciences, an AAV-focused biotech that conducted its own layoffs last week and has over $1.1 billion in biobucks on the line thanks to a hemophilia A partnership with Takeda.