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Novartis in Switzerland: Biologics job boost but 500 'traditional' jobs to go

Dan Stanton

By Dan Stanton+

19-May-2017
Last updated on 19-May-2017 at 12:55 GMT2017-05-19T12:55:32Z

Image: iStock/XtockImages
Image: iStock/XtockImages

Novartis will add around 350 Swiss jobs to support its innovative biologics pipeline as it looks to cut 500 more “traditional” development and manufacturing roles.

An interview with Matthias Leuenberger, delegate for Novartis Switzerland, posted on its Swiss website yesterday revealed plans to realign the Big Pharma’s workforce in Basel away from traditional pharma production.

“Over the next year and a half, approximately 350 positions will be created [in Basel], mostly in the areas of development and in innovative biologics manufacturing,” Novartis spokeswoman Hannah Miller confirmed to Biopharma-Reporter today.

“At the same time, we plan to reduce up to 500 positions or move them to other locations - mostly traditional manufacturing, coordination and development operations roles.”

The workforce plans, resulting in a net loss of 150 jobs, is part of Novartis’ global transformation strategy: an ongoing efficiency drive which has seen the firm save up to $2.8bn (€2.5bn) annually through reallocation programmes and job cuts.

Last year the firm launched a centralised Technical Operations (TechOps) organisation within its business to optimise technologies across its divisions, and the Swiss staffing changes forms part of this development, we were told.

“Novartis introduced an integrated operating model to accelerate innovation and further optimize the quality and efficiency of its operations worldwide. Continuous implementation of this model leads to workforce adjustments globally – both build ups and reductions.”

We were also told Novartis remains committed long-term to its home country for both R&D and manufacturing, and its drug substance bioproduction site in Basel is currently undergoing a transformation to become a commercial manufacturing site, Miller said.

Changing of the (Swiss) guard?

While Novartis said it will look to transfer some of the 500 positions in small molecule operations to fill the 350 in biologics role, Miller did not reveal details as to whether a reskilling option would be offered to affected employees.

But going from, say, a small molecule active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) quality or technical role to working on analytical methods for monoclonal antibody (mAb) characterisation could be addressed through reskilling courses like those being offered by Ireland’s Government-funded National Institute for Bioprocessing Research & Training (NIBRT).

“An individual with qualifications and experience in a small molecule manufacturing would have many of the key competencies required for a role in biologics manufacturing,” projects director Killian O’Driscoll told this publication last year .

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