Novo Nordisk to Restructure R&D and Reduce Staff

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The company plans to lay off approximately 400 employees to support the restructuring of its R&D organization.

Novo Nordisk announced plans in a Sept. 18, 2018 press release to restructure its R&D organization to accelerate the expansion diversification of its pipeline across chronic diseases.

To enable this increased investment in transformational biological and technological innovation, approximately 400 employees will be laid off from R&D roles in Denmark and China.  

According to the company, it will establish four transformational research units in 2018 to pursue new treatment modalities and platform technologies. The biotech-like units will be based in Denmark, the United States, and the United Kingdom and will operate as satellites of Novo Nordisk's central R&D function, driving innovation in priority fields such as translational cardio-metabolic research and stem cell research, the company reports.

Novo Nordisk will also significantly increase its investment in automation and digital capabilities, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), in an effort “to drive a faster and more efficient path towards lead molecule selection and development”. The integration of laboratory infrastructure and IT systems will also be prioritized to increase the efficiency of the R&D organization.  

The restructuring and reallocation of resources supports Novo Nordisk's strategy to transform the way it works within R&D in order to identify and develop innovative drug candidates, as stated by the company. This will be facilitated by the identification and pursuit of new therapeutic approaches based on external collaborations-a priority that will be accelerated by the establishment of a new business development unit in Cambridge, MA.


Recently, the company has announced a range of external agreements.  These include the acquisition of the UK-based biotech start-up Ziylo in August 2018 to enhance research within glucose-responsive insulins and a number of partnership agreements with universities and biotech in the fields of cardio-metabolic and stem cell research.

"Delivering on our ambition of achieving even higher levels of innovation across a broader and more diverse range of chronic diseases requires that we have the optimal future skill base and allocate resources to our priority areas," said Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, chief science officer, Novo Nordisk, in the release. "Unfortunately, this implies that a number of valued colleagues will lose their jobs in order to ensure that we have sufficient new research capabilities needed to support our long-term growth ambitions."

Source: Novo Nordisk