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Amgen laying off about 380 R&D workers

The layoffs represent about 6% of Amgen's total 6,700 workers in research and development. Amgen employs about 17,600 workers globally.

October 20, 2011|By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times

Biotech giant Amgen Inc. is laying off about 380 employees in its research and development division, saying it is restructuring operations to focus on new drugs in later, more expensive stages of development.

"We're focusing on therapies that are promising," said Mary Klem, a spokeswoman for the Thousand Oaks company. "It's very expensive to conduct clinical trials. The patient population gets bigger at each phase. That's the crux of what is causing us to make these strategic changes."

The layoffs represent about 6% of the company's total 6,700 workers in research and development. Amgen employs about 17,600 workers globally.

The company said the reductions, announced Wednesday, would affect 226 employees in Thousand Oaks, along with 37 others in South San Francisco. Also targeted are 69 of its workers in the Seattle area and 32 around Boston. About 10 others in England are expected to lose their jobs.

One pharmaceutical industry analyst suggested that Amgen might be reallocating resources from early-stage research to its commercial side to support the expansion of a promising new bone disease drug in the United States and the launch of that drug and a cancer treatment in Europe.

"When resources have to be allocated more toward commercial, the R&D people tend to get laid off more," said Liana Moussatos, a managing director for Wedbush Securities who specializes in emerging pharmaceuticals.

Amgen said that the cuts did not represent an across-the-board reduction in research and development and that no sites were being closed. The company said the layoffs were made so it could "continue to allocate our R&D resources in a focused manner."

Klem, the spokeswoman, said she was not aware of any further reductions expected this year even as the company weathers what she described as a "very challenging business environment" that requires ongoing evaluation.

"We have a limited set of resources to spend on R&D," Klem said. "We're forced to make some difficult decisions."

Amgen shares rose 4 cents, or less than 1%, to $57.32 in regular trading Wednesday.

duke.helfand@latimes.com

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