NJ Shocker: Roche to Shutter Nutley R&D Site

Xconomy New York — 

Swiss drug giant Roche said today it would close its 80-year-old research site in Nutley, NJ—a move that will slash 1,000 jobs in the U.S., as the company consolidates its R&D activities in Basel and Schlieren, Switzerland and Penzberg, Germany. The company will continue to maintain a separate biotech research site in South San Francisco, where its wholly owned subsidiary, Genentech, is located.

The move comes less than a month after the company detailed an intricate and carefully mapped out research strategy that its scientists in Nutley and San Francisco have been perfecting ever since Roche purchased Genentech in 2009. The company has maintained two independent research groups—Genentech Research and Early Development, which is based in South San Francisco, and Pharma Research and Early Development, which encompassed all of the rest of Roche’s R&D activities around the world.

Those two groups will still exist, a Genentech spokesman tells Xconomy. And none of the changes will affect the South San Francisco unit, he says.

Roche says it will establish a new center focusing on translational research somewhere on the east coast, which will employ 240 people. The location of that center has not been determined, but a Roche spokewoman says the  company hopes to nail one down by September. Employees of the Nutley site will be informed about the transition plans in August, she says. Jean-Jacques Garaud, head of Roche Pharma Research and Early Development, will be leaving Roche. Mike Burgess, who currently heads up the oncology unit, will take over as acting head of the unit.

Roche’s R&D group will continue to maintain its research activities in virology and oncology—which it has been bolstering in recent months—but it will move those projects to Basel and to Shanghai, where Roche has another R&D facility, the spokeswoman says.

It’s a tough break for the Nutley site, which has already suffered its share of heartbreak. In 2010, 900 jobs were eliminated from the site.

Roche has not changed its financial outlook for this year, and the company says it will estimate the impact of the closing in its half-year financial report, which it plans to release later today.