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Biogen and Takeda forced to send employees home as coronavirus hits Massachusetts

Published on 09/03/20 at 04:26pm

Big pharma has been hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak right on its doorstep, as two of the biggest names based in the Boston and Cambridge life sciences cluster – Biogen and Takeda – revealed that their workforce had been compromised.

On 8 March, Japanese company Takeda – the largest drug firm by headcount in Massachusetts – implored its global workforce in an email to not come into the office and work from home where possible.

Laboratory and manufacturing staff were told that, in the event they cannot work remotely, they must limit gatherings to ten or fewer people, and those people must stay at least six feet from each other.

One of Takeda’s neighbours in Massachusetts, Biogen was also forced to ask its staff to work from home after it was discovered that around 15 of its employees were found to have contracted the virus.

It is thought that these infections occurred at an event held at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, not far from the company’s headquarters, in late February. Around 175 people are thought to have attended the meeting, and some of the Biogen employees in attendance also visited a conference at the Boston Marriott Copley Place Hotel at the beginning of March, which itself was attended by hundreds of visitors.  

By 9 March, the number of cases amongst staff had risen to 26, 23 of whom live in the state. Biogen confirmed that these personnel have been directed to work from home for two weeks, and the company has sent samples from those infected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final diagnoses.

Matt Fellows

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