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Eli Lilly shutters UK neuroscience unit, with 80 job losses expected

Company says decision is not related to Brexit

Lilly

Eli Lilly has said it plans to shut down its Windlesham research centre in Surrey, UK, which focused on neuroscience R&D, but says the decision is not related to Brexit.

The closure of the Erl Wood unit will complete by the end of 2020 and result in around 80 redundancies, with the remainder of 270-strong workforce expected to relocate to “a new location within the local area”, according to Lilly.

Neuroscience research will be transferred to the US drugmaker’s R&D hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of a company-wide review of its research operations, according to a report in the Basingstoke Gazette. There will be no change to Lilly’s commercial infrastructure in Basingstoke, it says.

Lilly said in a statement that ongoing changes to its R&D organisation have mean that there are now 45 neuroscience researchers, supported by approximately 35 chemistry researchers, working at Erl Wood. A small number of bioinformatics and neuroscience roles will be kept in the UK to handle external R&D collaborations with UK and EU research groups.

It also said shifting the neuroscience projects to the US will make it easier for Lilly apply new technologies like RNA interference and gene therapy to the neuroscience projects.

Tim Garnett, Lilly’s chief medical officer, said the proposal “will be difficult news for many working for Lilly in the UK”.

He added: “Our dedicated teams have delivered world-class research from Erl Wood for the last 50 years. They are some of the most talented people in the industry and this proposal is not a reflection on their hard work or skill.”

Garnett also insisted that the decision is also not a result of the UK voting to leave the EU, as negotiators seek to thrash out a withdrawal deal ahead of a two-day EU summit which starts tomorrow – and a showdown in the UK parliament on Saturday.

The UK is due to leave the EU at 11pm on 31 October and prime minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not request a delay, raising fears of a no-deal crash out.

“Like many pharmaceutical companies, we are evolving the way we work in order to discover the medicines of tomorrow,” continued Garnett. “While this brings real opportunities, it obviously means we are forced to make very difficult choices.”

Lilly has a long history of developing drugs to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders, coming up with drugs like antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) and antipsychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine), although a more recent push into neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s has proved to be a challenge.

Its pipeline currently includes solanezumab for Alzheimer’s – which has already failed earlier phase 3 trials – along with two antibodies for the disease in mid-stage testing (donanemab and zagotenemab) and a small-molecule dopamine D1 modulator for dementia caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Article by
Phil Taylor

16th October 2019

From: Research

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