Hutch Cuts 83 Jobs To Cope with Drop in Philanthropy

Xconomy Seattle — 

[[Updated, 11:55 am Pacific April 16, with corrected employee and budget figures]] The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has joined the list of organizations announcing layoffs, by eliminating 83 jobs, or about 3 percent of its workforce. The Seattle-based nonprofit research institute said in a statement that it made the budget cuts to offset the drop in charitable giving that it counts on.

“The recent global economic downturn poses unprecedented financial challenges for biomedical research institutions nationwide,” said Lee Hartwell, the center’s president, in a statement. “During this period, the Center’s priorities are to maintain our focus on our life-saving research mission, and to ensure we have the personnel and resources necessary to support that mission. Unfortunately, it is clear that the only way the Center can achieve these goals while maintaining a balanced budget in the next fiscal year is through significant cost reductions, including layoffs.”

The “Hutch” is one of the world’s leading biomedical research centers, and an anchor of the Seattle biotech cluster. It has more than 2,700 employees, and a budget for fiscal 2009 of more than $390 million, according to a spokesman. Most of the center’s budget comes from competitive grants it wins from the National Institutes of Health, which is seeing a huge boost to its annual budget, from $29 billion a year to about $40 billion, under President Obama’s stimulus plan. As I reported last month, scientists at the Hutch are working hard to win grants for sophisticated new research equipment that it may be able to compete for in the new NIH budget, according to Ulrich Mueller, vice president of technology transfer at the Center. Back in December, we included the “Hutch” in this list of organizations in Seattle biotech that were still hiring—at the time it had 34 job openings for external candidates listed on its website.

The center’s grants have “so far remained stable,” according to the statement. But the financial crisis has limited the amount of charitable giving and investment income the Center relies on for discretionary funds. “The budget reductions that we are implementing are critical to maintaining the momentum of excellence of our research,” Hartwell said.

Most of the cuts are in administrative jobs, although some are scientific, says spokesman Dean Forbes. The Center has also decided to outsource food services to Bon Appetit, he says. All laid-off employees are getting 60-day notices. Employees who worked more than 50 percent time with more than five years experience at the Center will receive additional severance pay, he says.

Charitable giving, which makes up about 7 percent of the Hutch’s budget, has dropped off by 50 percent during the recession, Forbes says.

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