Potential buyers size up Novartis site as layoffs loom for 400 workers 

Layoffs at a Novartis plant in Grimsby, U.K. will begin in Q2 of 2020 if a buyer isn't found to take the plant over. (Pixabay)

The clock is ticking down for the 400 workers at a Novartis plant which was put on the block last year as the company cuts costs to finance new therapies. There is some hope, however, with half a dozen companies taking a look at the U.K. site. 

A Novartis spokesman today confirmed that six interested parties have taken a look at the site since Novartis announced last year it would be put on the block. Workers have been told that one of the three main manufacturing units will close in April of next year and layoffs will begin then. The site is slated to maintain some production through next year.  

Workers were updated this week by Ian Johnson, director for the site in Grimsby in the U.K., according to the Grimsby Telegraph. Johnson told the group that the process for a potential sale “has been positive, though one concern is the large size of the plant,” the report said. The site is 220 acres although some of the property could be sold separately. 

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RELATED: Novartis whacking nearly 2,000 manufacturing jobs to pump up margins

Novartis last year named Grimsby as one of five sites that would be sold or closed as the company moved away from bulk manufacturing and whacked 2,000 jobs to cut costs. 

The Swiss drugmaker is also closing four plants in Switzerland, affecting about a 1,000 jobs, but that was a net number that took into account 450 jobs being added at a cell and gene therapy unit in Stein. That means about 1,450 jobs cuts are being made at the affected plants in Basel, Schweizerhalle, Locarno and Stein. Novartis pledged to train as many of the targeted workers as possible on the new technology platform at Stein.

RELATED: Novartis inspection puts into question who knew what—and when—about Zolgensma data manipulation 

The company has been focused on building up its gene and cell therapy manufacturing as it develops new drugs like CAR-T drug Kymriah and gene therapy Zolgensma. Those facilities are much smaller, however, and require high tech skills as workers reprogram cells and genes that are then transplanted into patients for potential cures. 

Novartis has had issues with the manufacturing of both of those drugs, however. It set off a firestorm this summer when it acknowledged that its application for Zolgensma had been filed with some inaccurate manufacturing data. The FDA determined the data manipulation did not affect the effectiveness or safety of the drug and has left it on the market but has said strong penalties may follow. Zolgensma is a potential cure for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disorder that is often fatal to the infants that are born with it.

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