Novartis' global reorganization hits home as ax drops on Basel R&D center

The ongoing reorganization of Novartis has hit home in Basel. The pharma giant ($NVS) spread the word in Switzerland today that it is cutting about 500 positions while it amps up research staffing for cancer drug development and manufacturing as the company sets the stage for new product launches.

Out: Support functions at the company's headquarters in Basel as well as operational roles in pharma development. The company also noted that staffers will be concentrated in fewer sites, though there's no word on what that means for the company's extensive operations in Switzerland, where Novartis employs about 15,000 people. Basel is one of three key R&D centers for Novartis, which has also been shifting investigators to its other main R&D hubs in Boston and Shanghai.

Last fall Novartis moved to shutter a respiratory research center in Horsham, U.K., and later said it would drop its work on topical dermatology treatments in Vienna, laying off staffers there as it also closes a biotherapeutics development unit in La Jolla, CA, and relocates its oncology R&D work in Emeryville, CA, to the booming Boston-area biotech hub. A total of about 500 research jobs were slashed at the time as Novartis made plans to add 175 respiratory and cancer jobs to its booming operations in Cambridge, where the company has a staff of 2,400.

Just because a position is being cut in this new restructuring doesn't necessarily mean a staffer is getting pink-slipped. Novartis says it has a good track record at finding new positions for employees whose jobs are being cut and plans to soften the blow as much as possible.

There's nothing new about restructuring R&D, though Novartis's piecemeal, country-by-country approach has raised plenty of questions for staffers as well as industry observers. The company--which has specialized in winnowing out staffers throughout its organization in recent years--has yet to respond to a query from FierceBiotech whether the restructuring round is complete now or about to arrive at other countries where the pharma giant operates.

- here's a release from Novartis (in German)