Drugmaker Shire moving hundreds of jobs from Philly area to Boston region

    The drugmaker Shire Plc will moving about 500 jobs from Chester County to its Lexington, Massachusetts, site.


    Economic leaders see the move as no surprise, but say it points to the region’s challenges in retaining and growing its pharmaceutical and life-sciences base.

    Shire, widely known for its ADHD drugs, employees about 1,000 people in Chesterbrook who do everything from research and development to marketing.

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    Gwen Fischer, a company spokeswoman, said all but 250 to 300 administrative positions will move to the company’s Boston site in order to consolidate its U.S. locations and encourage more collaboration.

    “Why was the greater Boston area chosen? It’s because Shire’s goal is to become a leading biotech company and Boston is the biotech center of the world,” Fischer said.

    The Irish-based company also anticipates saving about $25 million annually by streamlining operations. Its other main site is in Switzerland.

    Shire’s announcement comes as part of much bigger trend in the pharmaceutical sector, involving consolidations and contractions, especially as patents for major blockbuster drugs expire and companies look to new business models.

    The company’s future in the state was already on shaky ground after it cancelled plans to expand its facilities in Pennsylvania last year. A major $50 billion takeover by the drug company Abbvie had been in the works until falling through a few weeks ago.

    For Mike Grigalonis, chief of operations at the Chester County Economic Development Council, Shire’s announcement is disappointing, but his agency and others are working to build on the existing life sciences strengths in the region.

    “We’ve had a lot of successes over the years from the Cephalons and ViroPharmas (which Shire bought),” says Grigalonis. “We have historical successes, so we’ve got to re-create those.”

    Programs that foster entrepreneurship and innovation, such as i2n, are one way of going about that, he said. 

    Meanwhile, Steve Kratz, a spokesman for Pennsylvania’s economic development agency, said despite Shire’s move, the state has a lot going for it.

    “We’re still highly confident in the life sciences and pharma industry in Pennsylvania,” said Kratz. “And we are still home to one of the top pharmaceutical corridors in the United States, if not the world.”

    He points to state-backed programs such as Life Sciences Connect that are part of concentrated strategy to support the region’s life sciences talent.

    Shire expects all the moves to be complete by early 2016.

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