Bristol-Myers Squibb laying off 69 employees in Florida in push to 'focus resources'

Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to lay off nearly 70 employees in Tampa. (BMS)

After opening an office in Tampa, Florida, in 2014 and filling hundreds of positions, Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to lay off dozens of employees there early next year.

BMS will let go of approximately 69 employees at its Tampa “capability center" in January, a spokeswoman confirmed. Employees at the center provide services across various areas of the company and explore ways to boost its efficiency. The Tampa Bay Business Journal first reported the cuts.

RELATED: Bristol-Myers Squibb moving 575 jobs to Tampa

BMS spokeswoman Sarah Koenig said the decision falls in line with the company’s aim to “focus resources behind its highest priorities, accelerate its pipeline and simplify infrastructure.”

The drugmaker remains committed to its Tampa office, she said. For affected employees, BMS is offering severance packages and career transition services. BMS notified employees of the cuts on Wednesday, and the layoffs are effective Jan. 31.

For BMS, the cuts come as its big checkpoint inhibitor, Opdivo, dukes it out with Merck’s Keytruda in a high-stakes field. In late October, the company suffered a few setbacks in a row, sending investors into somewhat of a panic.

Shares dropped nearly 20% after Merck posted positive kidney cancer data for Keytruda, threatening to encroach on market share for Bristol's Opdivo-Yervoy immuno-oncology combo. BMS also unveiled an analysis that could hurt a first-line lung cancer filing for its the duo. Shares have climbed up slightly from a low point in late October.