GSK lays off 27 vaccine researchers in Montana

As GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) prepares to fold in the bulk of Novartis' ($NVS) vaccines unit--headed its way after their April 2014 multibillion-dollar asset swap--it's changing things up a little. And that includes closing the R&D branch of its vaccines lab in Hamilton, MT, this year.

27 employees are getting the ax, news the company delivered to them Thursday, according to local newspaper Missoulian. The pharma giant plans to centralize its R&D efforts in one location, but where that will be hasn't yet been decided, company spokeswoman Melinda Stubbee told the publication.

So far, Hamilton's other 184 employees are safe, with no layoffs announced yet for the site's manufacturing portion. Hamilton is Glaxo's only site that makes Monophosphoryl lipid A, an additive the company uses to improve the effectiveness of products including its HPV and hepatitis B vaccines.

GSK's vaccines unit is set to undergo a transformation as the company gears up to swallow Novartis' offerings--excluding the Swiss pharma's flu lineup, which it sold in a separate deal to Australia's CSL. In exchange for $7.1 billion, Glaxo will take home jabs like the meningitis B-fighter Bexsero, which is sporting a brand new FDA approval. And those will help the company's vaccines unit kick in 14% of its overall top-line haul going forward, it figures.

And in the meantime, the British drugmaker is working on a company-wide restructuring that extends far beyond Hamilton. With sales of aged behemoth Advair on the decline, Glaxo in December filed a report with the State of North Carolina noting that it would eliminate 900 jobs at its respiratory-focused Research Triangle Park organization.

"Other parts of the business are facing similar restructuring," Stubbee told Missoulian. "It's happening companywide, not just Hamilton, but all parts of GSK's business."

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