Bayer HealthCare in Berkeley is laying off 227 employees, the company announced Wednesday. Around half the cuts go into effect today.
The healthcare company in West Berkeley said the layoffs are a result of needing to make “efficiencies” as it transitions its customers to next-generation hemophilia drugs.
The job cuts, which will not affect the provision of therapies to patients, are accompanied by the departure through the end of this year of 204 manufacturing-related employees who took voluntary separations this year, according to Bayer spokeswoman Chantel Mandel. The company is also preparing to open a new drug-making plant in Germany.
Bayer is the second largest employer in Berkeley, after UC Berkeley, and the city’s largest private employer. After all the departures, the company will have around 1,100 employees.
Mandel said Wednesday she could not comment on the development, as “we’re focused on meeting with employees.” She sent the following statement to Berkeleyside on request (and subsequently did respond to some questions by email).
Bayer’s longstanding commitment to the hemophilia community drives our continued investment in discovering and developing innovative therapies for patients living with this life-long disorder. Berkeley has been Bayer’s biotechnology manufacturing hub for more than 40 years, serving hemophilia patients in nearly 80 countries around the world. This site is responsible for producing all three of Bayer’s rFVIII therapies, including the Jivi, which was recently approved in the US and Japan. We are deeply proud of the innovation that these medicines bring to our patients. The manufacturing processes for these products must also be robust and efficient to ensure product safety, reliable supply, and to remain competitive in support of new therapies that position the long term viability of the site. Our transition into commercial production with three products has resulted in the need for organizational changes to enable these efficiencies, and today we notified 227 employees that their positions were being eliminated as part of this reorganization. This decision will not impact product availability as we remain committed to providing a portfolio of treatment options to serve the individual needs of the hemophilia community. We have the utmost appreciation for the employees affected by this reorganization, and will ensure that we manage their transition in the most respectful and thoughtful manner that we can.
Hemophilia is a genetic blood clotting deficiency which causes increased bleeding and usually affects men. Bayer’s three hemophilia-related drugs are Kogenate F, which has been made in Berkeley for the past two decades; Kovaltry which was approved by regulators in 2016 and the production of which is slated to expand to a new plant in Germany around 2021, according to the SF Business Times; and Jivi, which was approved by the FDA in August for “the routine prophylactic treatment of hemophilia A in previously treated adults and adolescents 12 years of age or older.”
Last summer, Bayer opened a $100 million quality assurance control facility at its Berkeley campus at 800 Dwight Way focused on testing the components that go into Kogenate F. It was the largest capital investment Bayer had made to its Berkeley property, which it has owned for 43 years.
Bayer, then known as Miles Laboratories Inc., first acquired land in Berkeley in 1974 when it purchased plasma producer Cutter Laboratories (est. 1897). The German multinational added 15 acres to its original 30-acre investment in 1999 when it bought the old Colgate-Palmolive property. Bayer now occupies 45 acres bounded by Dwight Way to the north, and Grayson Street to the south, between Seventh Street and the railroad tracks.
Mandel said the jobs being eliminated were in manufacturing, quality, supply chain, warehouse and engineering. Bayer notified employees of the lay-offs today, initiating a non-working 60-day notification period, said Mandel. Employees will receive pay and benefits through Dec. 3, after which separation benefits will become effective. Employees who were not affected by the reorganization were offered the opportunity to go home today, according to Mandel. Bayer is the only unionized biotech manufacturing site in the United States.
This story was updated after publication with new information supplied to Berkeleyside by Bayer.