Takeda winds down manufacturing and R&D operations in Austria after gene therapy pivot, plots 190 layoffs

After Takeda’s unsuccessful attempt to sell an Austrian manufacturing and development site, the Japan-based company is calling it quits on much of the operations at the facility.

Takeda is shutting down production and R&D operations at its adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy plant in Orth, Austria, a company spokesperson confirmed over email. Nearly 200 employees are set to lose their jobs as part of the move.

The development comes about a year after Takeda telegraphed plans to divest the site in the wake of its decision to end discovery and preclinical activities on AAV gene therapy—the Orth site’s “core R&D competence,” according to the Takeda spokesperson.

News of the site wind-down was first reported by Austrian news outlet Kronen Zeitung, which noted that around 190 of the site’s approximately 330 employees will lose their jobs in connection with the move.

Takeda had originally hoped to sell the site to help maintain its AAV gene therapy focus, the spokesperson said. However, following a “thorough and lengthy effort,” Takeda was unable to locate a buyer.

The drugmaker has alerted employees about the layoffs and operations wind-down, the spokesperson said. She noted that the company is committed to supporting affected workers in multiple ways.

Importantly, the move won’t affect Takeda’s quality control lab in Orth, including support functions essential to its operations. The quality control lab conducts testing for a wide range of products across the company’s global portfolio, the spokesperson explained.

“Regardless of this change, Austria remains an important location within Takeda’s global network based on our quality control laboratory in Orth that will continue to operate and the important ongoing work of our development and manufacturing sites in Vienna and Linz,” Takeda’s spokesperson said.

The Orth site wind-down is a consequence of Takeda’s decision last April to move away from early-stage R&D work in AAV gene therapy and in rare hematology diseases. The move was designed to help focus resources on core therapeutic areas and the company’s late-stage clinical programs, Takeda told Fierce Biotech at the time.

In tandem with the decision, Takeda last year suggested an unknown number of employees would “transition out” of the company.

By May 2023, layoffs had started to manifest, with Takeda revealing in WARN notices that as many as 186 employees would lose their jobs across the company’s various Massachusetts sites.

Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time Takeda has tried to pawn off one of its manufacturing facilities. Back in 2020, the Japanese company said it was shopping around a $400 million biologics plant in Ireland—along with 200 employees—that it acquired in its $60 billion buyout of Shire in 2019.

At the time, Takeda told Fierce Pharma that a review of its manufacturing facilities post-buyout found it had excess capacity, spurring the decision to divest the plant in Dunboyne, Ireland.

The facility was ultimately snapped up by Merck & Co. in August 2020.