In reorganization, Bayer lays off 55 at Berkeley, California, campus

Bayer has big ambitions for its Berkeley, California, campus, where it plans to invest $1.2 billion over the next 30 years. But even a rapidly growing site is not immune to job cuts in today’s belt-tightening environment.

Bayer has cut 55 jobs there, according to the latest Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) update. Employees were notified Jan. 30, with terminations effective March 31, according to the WARN.

The German company acknowledged the layoffs to Fierce Pharma, saying it is part of a reorganization. Bayer made the cut through a Separation Election Program, offering retirement to personnel age 55 and older with at least 10 years of service. The affected people will be eligible for severance benefits, the company said.

“We are driving forward a major transformation of our operations locally as we continue to deliver our current commercial portfolio while preparing for new modalities,” Bayer said in an emailed statement, adding the move is a “cost containment measure” as it flexes to the “changing needs of our portfolio.”

The move comes as Bayer is undergoing a change in leadership from seven-year CEO Werner Baumann to former Roche pharma chief Bill Anderson. Baumann had resisted investor pressure to break up the company after an ill-fated, $63 billion purchase of Monsanto in 2018.

Bayer has operated at the Berkeley site since 1992, starting there through its subsidiary Miles Laboratories. It has a head count of roughly 1,000 at the site, with plans to add another 1,000 over the next 30 years as it expands its cell and gene therapy operations.

For decades, the site has been primarily responsible for producing Bayer’s treatments for hemophilia such as Kogenate, Kovaltry and Jivi. But sales of the drugs have flattened with competition from Roche’s juggernaut Hemlibra, which raked up sales of $4.1 billion last year, while Bayer’s trio made $641 million through the first three quarters.

When its hemophilia franchise first began to take a hit—in 2018 when Hemlibra was approved—Bayer cut 227 jobs at the Berkeley site and closed down a smaller plant in Wuppertal, Germany.

Meanwhile, Bayer’s cell and gene therapy initiatives have mushroomed. The company bought out adeno-associated virus specialist Asklepios for $2 billion in 2020, launched a cell and gene therapy platform and plugged millions of investment dollars into gene therapy players Metagenomi and Senti Bio.

"While we are making these reductions, we remain focused on the transformation of our Berkeley Biotech operations, expanding our scope from the development and manufacturing of protein therapeutics and into making new modalities," Bayer added.

Bayer was not the only Bay Area company in the life sciences industry executing layoffs. The most recent WARN update included two co-located Johnson & Johnson units—DePuy Synthes Products and Medical Device Business Services—which have cut a combined 37 workers.