Amgen Cuts 100 Jobs in Bothell

4/9/09Follow @xconomy

Amgen, the world’s biggest biotech company, is cutting 100 jobs at a drug manufacturing site in Bothell, WA, Xconomy has learned. This round of cuts will leave Amgen with about 70 people still working in Bothell, and a total workforce in the state of just under 900 people, company spokeswoman Carol Pawlak confirmed.

Amgen, which has about 17,000 employees worldwide, decided to merge the work being done in Bothell—for manufacturing small batches of biotech drugs for use in clinical trials—into a larger facility at Amgen headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA where that same work is done. Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) will keep an adjoining facility in Bothell that works to continuously refine manufacturing processes of biotech drugs, which are made in living cells using fermentation-style processes.

The cutbacks are not part of any larger systemic cost-cutting at Amgen, Pawlak says. Amgen endured the worst year in its history in 2007, losing $29 billion in market value that year, as the FDA warned physicians about the risk of heart attack, stroke and death found in trials of patients who took its best-selling anemia drugs. Those concerns have largely faded from public view in the past year, and now Amgen is feverishly working to win FDA approval for an osteoporosis drug called denosumab, which has shown impressive ability to reduce bone fractures in clinical trials, and which analysts predict has potential to be a $1 billion-a-year hit.

“This was a difficult decision for us,” Pawlak says. “When we looked at the two facilities we had for clinical trial manufacturing, it made the most sense to do that work in one place.”

The workers in Bothell are not being offered transfers to California, although they do have an opportunity to apply for other jobs within Amgen, Pawlak says. They are expected to be let go in July, will receive a minimum of six months worth of salary as severance, a year of paid health insurance, and assistance in finding new jobs, Pawlak says.

Amgen just announced the decision internally yesterday, and hasn’t yet decided whether to sell or sublease the Bothell facility used for biotech drugmaking, Pawlak says. Amgen first came to Washington in 2002, when it acquired Seattle-based Immunex for $10 billion, and obtained rights to its crown jewel, etanercept (Enbrel) for autoimmune diseases. Enbrel is now the world’s biggest-selling biotech drug with more than $5 billion in worldwide annual sales for Amgen and its partner, Madison, NJ-based Wyeth.

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