Novartis shifts Shanghai’s focus from research to early development


ZURICH (Reuters) – Novartis is halting early-stage research in Shanghai and shifting the site’s focus to commercial development three years after the Swiss drugmaker christened the new $1 billion campus as its Chinese drug discovery hub.

About 150 of some 1,300 Shanghai staffers will lose their research jobs, while Novartis plans to add 340 new positions over the next four years to develop up-and-coming drug prospects.

The changes, first reported by website Fierce Biotech, were confirmed by Novartis. The publication cited Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research head Jay Bradner, who said Shanghai’s role in coming up with new molecules would now be replaced by developing drug prospects in the fast-growing Chinese market.

Bradner said research operations at the company’s Swiss headquarters, near Boston, and in California would continue.

The suburban Shanghai campus was finished in 2016, when former Chief Executive Joe Jimenez hailed its role in honing in on diseases common in China.

Jimenez has since been replaced by CEO Vas Narasimhman, while Bradner, who arrived in 2016, is reshaping research including moving tropical disease activities from Singapore to California and ending U.S. work on antibacterials and antivirals.

Novartis is among western companies benefiting from faster approvals and uptake of medicines in China.

Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty