Eye on Pharma: Bracing for Biosimilars, Genentech Will Lay Off 223 Employees

Samantha DiGrande

As biosimilar competition nears for Roche and its subsidiary, Genentech, a new WARN notice in the state of California disclosed that Genentech is set to lay off 223 employees from a local plant beginning August 31, 2018.

As biosimilar competition nears for Roche and its subsidiary, Genentech, a new WARN notice posted in the state of California disclosed that Genentech is set to lay off 223 employees from a local plant beginning August 31, 2018.

“The success of our business depends on our ability to respond to change, appropriately allocate resources and manage our operations efficiently,” said a Genentech spokeswoman in a statement. The layoffs will be “across different departments” and will continue into November.

These cuts come less than a year after the company laid off 130 workers at its biologics plant in Vacaville, California. “We are making this organizational change in response to the current and anticipated production requirements, the volumes required for some of our new medicine formulations, and shift schedule adjustments,” said the company at the time.

Roche’s top selling cancer medications rituximab (Rituxan), trastuzumab (Herceptin), and bevacizumab (Avastin) together brought in the company more than $20 billion in 2017. The high earnings have identified the drugs as valuable targets for biosimilar developers.

Although the FDA has approved a trastuzumab biosimilar (Ogivri) and bevacizumab biosimilar (Mvasi), neither have yet reached the market. The United States came close this year to having an approved rituximab biosimilar, however, the drug developer (Sandoz) was issued a Complete Response Letter from the FDA in May.

Conversely, the European market has seen approvals and marketing efforts of biosimilars for all 3 reference products; including 1 biosimilar option for Avastin, 4 Herceptin biosimilars, and 6 Rituxan biosimilars (1 molecule marketed under 4 trade names, and another molecule marketed under 2 trade names).