Biotech company to layoff workers, shut down facility in Bothell

Bracing for an expensive round of studies, the biotech company Amgen reported Tuesday evening it plans to shut down all of its facilities in Colorado and Washington state, including one in Bothell.

Altogether, the company which has about 20,000 employees, expects to slash up to 15 percent of its staff. The layoffs are expected to take place later this year and extend into 2015, according to the company. This move eliminates 610 jobs in Seattle and 50 jobs at the manufacturing plant in Bothell.

“It is disappointing and unfortunate anytime a job is lost in Washington state, and this is a big loss in an important industry,” said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, in a statement to the media. “The company has assured us the move is about a global restructuring — the sort of moves we’ve unfortunately seen before.”

The company, which reported strong financial results Tuesday, said that by the third quarter it will start to close the facilities not only here, but in Boulder and Longmont in Colorado as well.

Amgen said it will cut 2,400 jobs globally and concentrate most of its U.S. operations in south San Francisco and the Boston area. Its headquarters will remain in Southern California. The cuts represent between 12-15 percent of Amgen’s global workforce, the company said.

“The talented staff members at these locations have made enormous contributions to advancing biotechnology over the years, and the surrounding communities have been very supportive, so it is with great reluctance that we acknowledge the need to exit,” the company said in a statement.

Amgen said it will offer relocation to some staff members and will eliminate the remaining positions, but gave no details.

Amgen's layoffs follow a trend that's already well established in biopharma. Big companies around the globe have been abandoning outlying research facilities and concentrating heavily in the top hubs while scaling back in research and development. Amgen had already begun to trim staff during the past few years, but not at these levels. Back in January the company said it was cutting 200 positions at its manufacturing operations in Colorado, where the company makes the aging anemia drug Epogen. And back in 2011 it cut into its research and technical development operations in Seattle and Bothell, laying off dozens of workers.

Amgen has performed particularly poorly compared to star biotech performers like Biogen Idec, Gilead Sciences, Celgene and Regeneron -- which have seen a slate of major approvals combined with much smaller research and development budgets. Porges also isn't too keen about the prospects for a turnaround. Amgen has a portfolio of aging legacy products looking at biosimilar competition and a "scattered" pipeline that cobbles together such experimental drugs as T-Vec, blinatumomab and trebananib along with the newly acquired programs at Onyx, according to a filing document with SEC.

Amgen reported today that it spent $979 million on research and development in the second quarter, a 4 percent jump over what it spent in the same period last year. That's close to 20 percent of company sales. Amgen noted that the increase in research and development spending was at least partly as a result of the $10.4 billion Onyx buyout a year ago.

Enbrel, the immune-disease drug that prompted Amgen to buy Immunex, is still making money. It was Amgen’s top-selling U.S. drug in the latest quarter with nearly $1.2 billion in sales, nearly a third of the company’s U.S. sales. It also led the 8 percent bump in quarterly sales the company reported Tuesday.

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