UPDATED: Bristol-Myers rips up its R&D group, adding, eliminating and moving 800-plus

Bristol-Myers' Wallingford, CT, research center--Courtesy of BMS

Bristol-Myers Squibb's R&D organization is being revamped in a major U.S. shakeup that will see a new research center open in Cambridge, MA, two other research centers close, with hundreds of jobs being relocated in Massachusetts and Connecticut while about 100 researchers are axed as the Big Biotech shutters its discovery work in virology. More than 800 jobs at the company from coast-to-coast are affected by today's news.

A new facility in Cambridge's booming Kendall Square is slated to be opened in 2018, with a special focus on genetically defined diseases, molecular discovery technologies and discovery platform chemistry. Bristol-Myers ($BMY) is also adding 61,000 square feet to its Woodside Technology Park life science campus in the Bay Area and expects that ongoing work to be completed next year, with 40 scientists moving to San Francisco from its Seattle site as the company plans additional new hires.

Two of the company's research centers in Waltham, MA, and Wallingford, CT, are being closed, with up to 200 scientists relocating to Cambridge, MA, in the reorganization. An unspecified number of jobs will also be moved from New Jersey. Up to 500 jobs are being relocated out of Wallingford to a new research location in Connecticut. A spokesperson for the company tells FierceBiotech that Bristol-Myers has yet to identify a new location, but added that the move won't take place until 2018.

"With respect to the geographic changes," the spokesperson added, "we hope that those employees who are offered relocation will choose to stay with BMS. Employees who do not wish to relocate to a work location may be eligible for severance benefits in accordance with the terms of the BMS company severance plan."

"Consistent with the evolution of the company's R&D strategic focus, which was announced in 2013, the Discovery organization will discontinue its research efforts in virology," the company said in a statement. "This includes early research in hepatitis B (HBV) and HIV. Bristol-Myers Squibb has made significant contributions to the science in HIV, HBV as well as hepatitis C and has contributed to transforming the way patients with these diseases are treated. Approximately 100 Discovery positions will be eliminated as a result of these changes."

The Big Biotech, which employs 8,000 R&D staffers worldwide, is also renovating labs in New Jersey.

Bristol-Myers Squibb's big reorganization fits into the industry's new model for R&D. Large, scattered groups are out as big organizations gravitate toward the big hubs. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Amgen ($AMGN) have offered two recent examples of that trend, which has benefited hubs like Boston/Cambridge and the Bay Area while inflicting painful cuts in outlying areas. Biopharma companies are also concentrating on core areas, sometime shedding early-stage work--reflected in Merck's ($MRK) recent downsizing at the newly acquired Cubist and the big asset swap that occurred between GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis ($NVS).

Bristol-Myers noted that the elimination of discovery work in virology doesn't signal a retreat from its more advanced work in the field. Development efforts will continue for HIV attachment inhibitor BMS-663068, the HIV maturation inhibitor BMS-955176, beclabuvir and the anti-PD-L1 compound BMS-936559, as well as the company's marketed virology medicines, including Baraclude (entecavir), Reyataz (atazanavir)/Evotaz (atazanavir and cobicistat), Sustiva (efavirenz), Atripla (efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate), Daklinza (daclatasvir) and Sunvepra (asunaprevir). "Bristol-Myers Squibb's Discovery organization will continue to focus on research in immuno-oncology as well as heart failure, fibrosis, genetically defined diseases and immunoscience."

"In addition to investments in central New Jersey, our new location in Cambridge and our expanding presence in the San Francisco Bay area positions the company and our scientists in the heart of vibrant ecosystems of world class science, innovation and business opportunities, which offer ideal environments for fostering external collaboration," said R&D chief Francis Cuss. "Ultimately, our goal is to continue to accelerate the translation of scientific knowledge and insights into the next wave of potentially transformational medicines for patients with serious diseases."

- here's the release