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Vaccine maker Medicago plots 62 layoffs in North Carolina by year-end

Medicago, a Canadian biotech that made a name for itself with its GSK-partnered COVID-19 vaccine, is slashing 62 jobs at its Durham, North Carolina, manufacturing facility. The layoffs will be effective come Dec. 26, making for a very unmerry Christmas for dozens of staffers.

The company informed the North Carolina Department of Commerce of the layoff plans last week. The move comes after “careful assessment of Medicago’s current and future needs,” Medicago CEO and President Toshifumi Tada said in an emailed statement.

“Since day one of the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicago has worked tirelessly to develop its vaccine to help prevent the spread of this disease,” Tada said. “However, as the pandemic has evolved, the epidemiological situation and the availability of bivalent vaccines has demonstrated the need for Medicago to review its initial plan and its global strategy regarding Covifenz.”

Medicago won its first approval for Covifenz back in February, when Canadian regulators endorsed the shot. The vaccine combines Medicago’s plant-based, viruslike particle technology with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant.

“We are hard at work on a new approach to developing and manufacturing plant-based vaccines and therapeutics that meets the needs of global public health,” Tada added.

Elsewhere, Medicago is busy building a large manufacturing complex in Quebec City, which is due to open in 2024. The company invested $202 million in the factory, with the Canadian government adding $143 million and Quebec offering $50 million. The site will eventually employ around 500 workers.

But until that plant is completed, Medicago is relying on its North Carolina facility for the bulk of its COVID-19 vaccine production. That factory was built from a 2010 partnership with the U.S. government to prove the scalability of its plant-based vaccine platform.

These job cuts come amid a streak of biopharma layoffs. Recently, AbbVie and BMS let California know that they will lay off 99 and 261 employees, respectively. Teva earlier had said it would eliminate 305 jobs. But Novartis took the cake with its plans, revealed in June, to slash 8,000 jobs worldwide on a chase to save $1 billion.