UPDATED: Eisai brings ax down on U.S. R&D op, chops 130 staffers worldwide

Eisai has joined a long lineup of pharma companies cutting deep into their global R&D operations. The company announced late last week that it is bringing the ax down on workers at its R&D facility in Andover, MA, and other research centers around the globe as it chops 130 staffers out of its operations.

Small-molecule research work that had been executed in Andover--north of Boston--will now be shifted to R&D facilities in Japan and India, according to a release. And the biopharmaceutical--or large-molecule--development work that had been handled in Andover will be shipped south to Exton, PA, its sister R&D operation in the U.S.

More than half of the global layoffs at the company will be concentrated in Andover. Eisai notified local officials in the region last month that it is terminating 72 staffers, a third of the total workforce. A spokesperson for the company tells FierceBiotech that a total of about 95 jobs are being cut in the U.S., with the layoffs falling primarily in discovery research and nonclinical areas in Andover and the rest of the pink slips getting handed out in Woodcliff Lake, NJ, and Exton. The Eagle-Tribune, a local newspaper, noted several weeks ago that the move comes 6 years after the company opened a $65 million "state-of-the-art" lab in Andover.

"This is part of a reorganization plan that will include the closing of its pilot plant, the reduction of a significant portion of the Pharmaceutical Science and Technology Core Function Unit in Andover, and workforce reductions in other Andover departments," Eisai told area officials, according to the newspaper. "These actions are expected to be permanent."

Eisai picked up a facility in Exton after it bought out Morphotek for $325 million back in 2007. But the buyout has proven to be a disappointment. Eisai said about a year ago that its Phase III study for farletuzumab, the biotech's lead drug also known as MORAb-003, failed to hit a statistically significant goalpost for progression-free survival among ovarian cancer patients.

Exton nevertheless will now be home to the newly dubbed Biopharmaceutical Development Department.

Eisai is eliminating medicinal chemistry at its U.K. R&D center, known as the EMEA Knowledge Centre, while focusing on its joint neuroscience drug development efforts with University College London. The pharma company is also shaking up its R&D oversight structure, eliminating its Scientific & Operational Clinical Support unit while transferring the work done by a centralized Core Function Unit to other "product creation units."

Signs of a global reorganization started to bubble into public view a few weeks ago, when 20 full-time staffers and another 30 contract workers were cut from Eisai's R&D organization in the U.K.

Eisai has had a variety of woes on the R&D side of the business in recent years. In addition to the farletuzumab failure, the company recently had to file a lawsuit against the DEA in an effort to spur the agency to schedule the seizure drug Fycompa in an effort to launch marketing operations in the U.S.

Most of the top 10 global pharma companies have shaken up their R&D operations at some point over the past 5 years. Cuts and reorganizations run from Pfizer's ($PFE) decision to hack billions out of its annual research budget to a recent move by Novartis ($NVO) to trim R&D as it concentrated more work in Cambridge, MA, a popular destination in the industry.

- here's the press release