First wave of AstraZeneca's CNS R&D group gets the ax

AstraZeneca isn't wasting any time in pushing ahead with draconian cuts to its neuroscience work in its big R&D hub south of Stockholm. The first 50 scientists have already been shown the door, according to local news reports, part of the first wave of 400 job cuts as AstraZeneca ($AZN) slashes a total of 1,100 positions at the research complex.

"The first 50 left two weeks ago. Some will leave during the summer and others early this autumn and the whole move should be completed in December," AstraZeneca spokesperson Ann-Leena Mikiver told news agency TT. AstraZeneca has been inviting in companies to interview some of the exiting staffers, reports The Local, an English language news service. And the pharma giant is also offering advice to would-be entrepreneurs during "start-up days."

Following a number of rival pharma companies like GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), AstraZeneca has been radically downsizing its exposure in the neurosciences, a field that has delivered far more disappointments than new products in recent years. In place of its big facility AstraZeneca will go "virtual" with 40 to 50 scientists working out of Boston and Cambridge, U.K., collaborating with academics and other biotechs around the world.

AstraZeneca had already cut more than 20,000 workers in the last 5 years before announcing plans to shed another 7,300 staffers worldwide. Generic competition has begun to bite deep into profits and AstraZeneca has been given harsh reviews for its late-stage pipeline, a situation that helped inspire the recent departure of CEO David Brennan.

- here's the story from The Local

Special Report: AstraZeneca - Top 10 pharma layoffs of 2011

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