Eisai turns North Carolina facility over to Biogen as it continues its cost-cutting

Eisai has been whittling down its U.S. workforce as part of broader cost-cutting moves in the face of a tough patent cliff go. Now the Japanese drugmaker will trim another 135 people from its payroll with the sale of a manufacturing facility in North Carolina to drug development partner Biogen ($BIIB).

Biogen had been leasing an oral solid-dose operation from Eisai in Research Triangle Park since 2012 but with the transfer, the biotech picks up the rest of the facility, including filling lines, and may hire about 100 of the 135 employees that work there. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Eisai, which has been struggling for 5 years, recently projected that it would realize an operating profit this year, but only after cutting about ¥12 billion in costs, which means hard decisions around its global operations. In the U.S., it recently took the ax to 215 jobs in its commercial and regional corporate services units, a 25% haircut.

It also has also projected a revenue increase of 1.5% to ¥556.5 billion, but that is dependent on the performance of cancer-fighters Halaven and Lenvima as well as obesity drug Belviq and seizure med Fycompa. Eisai and Biogen also are working on a number of drugs, with anticipation building after some positive data for a drug for Alzheimer's. 

For Biogen, taking over the RTP facility is a logical extension of the company's build up in manufacturing. Of course the centerpiece of that build-out, executive VP John Cox said in a blog post, is a $1 billion biologics plant the company announced a couple of weeks ago. The facility, which it expects to start on by year-end, is being built in Luterbach, Switzerland. It will employ about 400 there when it is complete in 2021.

Cox pointed out that one of the "unique aspects of biopharmaceutical manufacturing is that we need to plan years ahead of potential launches because of the technical challenges and requirements to build new capacity. As a company, we're betting on the pipeline products we believe can significantly help patients in the years ahead."

- here's the Eisai release
- read the Biogen blog post