Biogen Idec Offering Jobs to Quarter of San Diego Workers, While Most Get Layoff Notices

Xconomy Boston — 

Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) plans to lay off most of the 300 to 350 employees at the company’s San Diego research center as part of the restructuring plan announced this morning, Biogen spokeswoman Christina Chan said. The drug development company, which was created in the 2003 merger of Massachusetts’ based Biogen and San Diego’s Idec Pharmaceuticals, says it will close all San Diego operations.

Xconomy reported the wider scope and strategy behind the cuts at Biogen this morning, including the major theme of focusing the company’s resources on neurology products, such as its multiple sclerosis drugs natalizumab (Tysabri) and interferon beta-1a (Avonex). Meantime, the firm is deemphasizing its research in the areas of cardiovascular and cancer therapies, the latter of the two being a focus of its San Diego R&D group.

Indeed, the cuts appear to be a major blow to the San Diego biotech community, where Biogen Idec ranks as a prominent leader and local success story. The layoffs in San Diego comprise roughly half of the 650 positions, or 13 percent of the firm’s total work force, that it says it will eliminate through the restructuring plan.

The impact is less severe in Massachusetts, where Biogen is consolidating its operations and cutting about 80 workers, or 4 percent of its 2,000 employees in the Bay State, Chan said. The firm is closing its operations in Wellesley, MA, and Waltham, MA, consolidating its Massachusetts operations at its Cambridge, MA, and Weston facilities.

Biogen is planning to offer jobs to some of its San Diego workers—but they will have to move out of the state for those positions. Chan said that about 25 percent of the firm’s San Diego employees are being offered jobs at the company’s sites in Cambridge and Research Triangle Park, NC. Otherwise, most of the firm’s workers in San Diego will be let go by January 10, while a smaller number of employees will stay on until mid-2011 to assist in winding down operations there, she said.

Xconomy plans to follow up on our initial reports on Biogen’s bold cuts with further analysis and interviews with company executives about the impacts on the San Diego and Boston-area biotech communities.

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