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Novartis to close UK manufacturing site, research downsized

Published on 16/03/11 at 03:58pm

Novartis is to close its manufacturing site in Horsham, West Sussex, but will retain its work in respiratory research at the site.

Early reports picked up by Pharmafocus suggested the entire site would close, but Novartis has now released an official statement saying only its manufacturing operations will close within the next two years, subject to consultation, with the loss of 500 jobs.

The news was better for the Global Development teams at the site, however, where nearly all jobs will be retained or relocated.

The Respiratory Clinical Development franchise and Respiratory Research team is to stay in Horsham, and all of the 330 jobs in these teams are to be retained. Scientists working on gastrointestinal research are to be offered transfers into existing units in Basel in Switzerland and Cambridge, Massachusetts over a 1-2 year period. A total of at least 400 research jobs are expected to remain in Horsham.

Meanwhile the Over-the-Counter medicines operations based at the site will move to (or near to) the company’s nearby Frimley site, to help save on back office costs. 

The manufacturing closure is a blow for the UK and Horsham, but not as severe in terms of sheer numbers as Pfizer’s recent decision to close its UK site in Sandwich, with the loss of nearly 2,400 research and development jobs.

Novartis says it will consult on proposals to restructure operations at Horsham while remaining committed to maintaining the site’s respiratory research function. The company says the plans are part of its “ongoing efforts to align resources to better respond to patients and customers in a challenging healthcare marketplace.”

Sue Webb, General Manager, UK & Ireland and Country President said: “Novartis is continuously evaluating its resource allocation to ensure that the organisation is highly flexible and able to proactively adapt to external challenges which best meet the needs of its customers.”

She added: “With significant changes in healthcare systems aimed to contain or cut cost, this critical assessment and the subsequent potential changes to the Novartis UK organisation are key to maintain significant investment in innovative drugs and our research efforts in the UK.”

Novartis says it will continue to invest in research and manufacturing in the UK. The respiratory research group, along with corresponding support functions, will remain in Horsham and the company will maintain its major manufacturing sites in Grimsby, Liverpool and Dundee.

The disappointing news has been cushioned by Novartis re-stating its confidence in the UK, saying it “believes the environment for the pharmaceutical industry in the UK is a good one.”

The company says it is working closely with the UK government to help proactively and positively manage the environment for the UK pharma industry. It says it is collaborating on a number of valuable initiatives to promote life sciences research in the UK, including Clinical Research Networks, the Academic Health Science Centres and the Therapeutic Capability Clusters.

The proposals will be subject to the usual employee consultation process and final Novartis UK board approval. Those employees whose roles are put at risk by the proposal will, if the proposal is accepted, be supported by Novartis through the process, with opportunities for alternative positions in the company and, where necessary, outplacement services among the assistance.


Andrew McConaghie

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