Monday, November 07, 2011

Genzyme Cambridge research facility faces axe | Business Weekly


The fate of Genzyme’s European research facility in Cambridge UK is in the balance as French parent company Sanofi considers major restructuring just eight months after acquiring Genzyme Corp.
In a defensive move to protect net profits as patents on some blockbuster drugs expire, Paris-based Sanofi warns that it will pull R & D activity back into four global centres – Boston in the US, France, Germany and Asia.
That puts UK research hubs in Cambridge and Oxford in danger along with others in Germany, Hungary, Italy and The Netherlands.
The Cambridge facility employs around 70 staff and they have all been informed that the axe could fall.
A consultation period is underway but prospects to save the Cambridge Science Park base look grim. There is a chance the researchers will be offered positions elsewhere in the global group.
Business Weekly understands that the Genzyme manufacturing facility in Haverhill – in Suffolk UK – is not likely to be affected by the restructuring.
Genzyme sources told Business Weekly that no timeframe had been given to staff regarding a final decision on the future of Cambridge R & D. That will obviously impact the phase-out period.
Ironically, the acquisition of Genzyme for $20bn in February helped prop up Sanofi’s results for the quarter to September 30. But the bottom line rang alarm bells for the board. Net profit fell three per cent to €2.4 billion, as generic competition in the US and Europe allied to adverse currency fluctuations hit earnings.
Genzyme broke the mould when it established both manufacturing and R & D operations within a 30-mile stretch covering the A14 corridor.
Also, Genzyme Europe Research was Genzyme’s first dedicated research and development facility in Europe.
The science team is currently focused on antibody technology. Additional complementary therapeutic technologies have been imported to increase the repertoire of the team as opportunities have arisen.
The team has been using phage display technology to create reagent antibodies for target validation purposes as well as candidate therapeutic antibodies to targets of interest. Both single chain variable domain (scFv) phage display libraries, as well as FAb phage libraries have been employed.
Targets of interest to the oncology, IMD and renal biologyportfolios have been identified and efforts were underway to create single chain and FAb fragments to these targets. Following attainment of proof of concept in pre-clinical models, a major goal for the Cambridge team was to be the use of antibody technology to create candidate therapeutic antibodies for use in clinical trials.

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