UPDATED: Thermo Fisher plots 74 layoffs at California plasmid manufacturing site as demand swings

Demand fluctuations have spurred Thermo Fisher Scientific to downsize at the plasmid DNA manufacturing facility the company opened a little less than three years ago, putting jobs on the chopping block.

Thermo Fisher has decided to “adjust staffing levels” at its plasmids manufacturing laboratory at its campus in Carlsbad, California, where employee separation is expected to kick off on May 31, a company spokesperson said via email.

“There are times when we must adjust staffing levels to remain in line with current volume demands,” the spokesperson explained.

The job cuts will span roles “across the plasmid business,” according to Thermo Fisher. Specifically, Thermo Fisher is laying off a total of 74 employees, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act report to the state of California. 

The ultimate fate of the plasmid manufacturing lab itself remains unknown as Thermo Fisher continues to explore its options, the spokesperson said.

Affected employees will receive job transition support to help them find new work opportunities, he added.

Thermo Fisher first sketched out plans for the facility in late 2020 in a bid to tap into a global market where demand had quickly outpaced supply. The site, which officially opened its doors in July of 2021, is designed to boost clinical and commercial output of plasmid DNA used to develop and produce cell and gene therapies for cancer, as well as mRNA vaccines.

The site is also equipped to crank out large-scale plasmid DNA as a primary drug substance for DNA therapies, according to Thermo Fisher’s original 2020 release.  

At the time, the company had plans to hire around 150 new employees at the 67,000-square-foot plasmid facility.

News of the Carlsbad plasmid cuts come after Thermo Fisher in January revealed it was winding down operations for good at its Petaluma, California, plant, and laying off 74 employees in the process. The Petaluma site, which will officially turn out the lights in July, produced pipette tips, microcentrifuge tubes and racks. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the company invested more than $140 million into its laboratory plastics disposables operation to meet COVID testing demand.

Elsewhere, Thermo Fisher last April mothballed its biologics development and cell therapy services facility in Princeton, New Jersey, and parted ways with 113 employees. Like the recent Carlsbad decision, the move was an effort to “remain in line with current manufacturing volume demands,” a company spokesperson said at the time.

A few months after the Princeton layoffs, Thermo Fisher announced it would let go of 205 staffers from separate sites in Alachua, Florida, and simultaneously said it would relocate viral vector services offered there to the company’s facility in Plainville, Massachusetts.

Editor's note: This story was updated on April 9 with specific layoff numbers from a California WARN report. It was originally published on April 3.