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Conejo Valley braces for Amgen layoffs

By   /   Friday, February 12th, 2021  /   No Comments

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Amgen’s Thousand Oaks campus. (File photo)

Biotech giant Amgen is in the process of laying off hundreds of workers, including as many as 100 at its Thousand Oaks headquarters.

According to a spokesperson for the company, approximately 500 workers will be let go beginning April 2, with fewer than 20% of those workers located in Thousand Oaks.

Amgen employs around 22,000 people worldwide. Around 6,500 of them are in California, and 5,500 are based at its main campus in Thousand Oaks.

The layoffs will primarily come from Amgen’s U.S. sales force, with many of the impacted workers labeled as field-based, meaning they live and work all across the United States.

“We made these changes to better enable Amgen to make additional investments we believe are needed to take advantage of patient-focused opportunities, including launching new products, and investing in R&D,” the company said in an emailed statement to the Business Times. “These decisions are never easy, and we are committed to helping those impacted with transitional support.”

Brett Reinke, a lawyer at Musick, Peeler & Garrett LLP in Westlake Village and founder of the BioScience Alliance industry group, said that these job cuts “could be significant” for the region.

“It really depends on how many of these people end up leaving the region as opposed to finding an alternative job here, but it’s a multiplier effect, depending on what kind of positions were being eliminated,” he said. “These are high-paying jobs in most cases so losing them also means losing what they pay for retail, at restaurants, etc.”

However, he added that the rise of a biotech hub in the Thousand Oaks area could mitigate those issues, as the industry as a whole is growing in the region.

Reinke has been in the area for nearly two decades, and recalled previous rounds of layoffs at Amgen, including hundreds of jobs in 2007.

The difference now, he said, is the area is much more capable of supporting laid-off biotech workers.

“We’re in a far better position now than we were then, in 2007 and 2008, when they had those first big layoffs, for a lot of these people to stay in the area and stay in the industry,” Reinke said.

Reinke also noted the efforts of Beth Seidenberg and Sean Harper at Westlake Village BioPartners, which has raised more than $820 million since 2018 to fund biotech startups in the area.

“We’re really starting to develop a nice little hybrid life science cluster in this region, when you look at the various companies that are here,” Reinke said. “It’s unfortunate that people have to lose their jobs, but these people, thanks to the environment of this region, will have plenty of job opportunities in this area and not have to relocate if they do not want to. Hopefully they can find jobs here where the companies are growing.”

In an earnings statement for the fourth quarter and full year of 2020, released Feb. 2, Amgen reported sales growth in 2020 but predicted little, if any, in 2021.

Amgen had 9% growth in sales to reach $25.4 billion for the year. Lower prices for its drugs, combined with trouble from the pandemic, offset some of those gains and could affect 2021 as well.

“We expect continued COVID impact throughout 2021 and revenue potential recovery in the latter part of the year contingent on the vaccination rollout,” Peter Griffith, executive vice president and CFO, said during Amgen’s earnings call.

Executives on the call also alluded to the company’s reorganization of its commercial model for greater efficiency, and praised an increased focus on digital efforts.

“We were able to move very rapidly last year and build out our digital capabilities to an even greater extent than we had historically,” Murdo Gordon, the company’s executive vice president of global commercial operations, said during the call. “What we haven’t done is compromised the ability to have competitive share of voice in our field facing interactions, both on the medical side, both on the commercial side, in front of the customer.”

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