Bristol-Myers Squibb stops drug discovery in three disease areas, cuts 1 percent of research staff

Bristol-Myers Squibb announced Thursday that it will discontinue drug discovery in the three disease areas of hepatitis C, diabetes and neuroscience, and will cut about 1 percent of its researchers. The layoffs, which will be made by the end of the year, will affect about 70 to 75 researchers, company spokeswoman Laura Hortas said.

Hortas noted that the shift in R&D focus was "slight" and not geared toward cost cuts. She added that early-stage trials of some neuroscience drugs might be terminated, although Bristol-Myers Squibb will continue with one study for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Hortas indicated that ongoing early- and mid-stage trials of many compounds will continue as planned.

"We are focusing our R&D organisation on delivering the opportunities where the value is greatest to patients," remarked chief scientific officer Francis Cuss, adding "we have decided to shift R&D toward a more specialty biopharma model that focuses on the areas of significant unmet medical need." The drugmaker noted that it will "increase investment in immuno-oncology, an area of significant opportunity, to realise the full potential of immunotherapy in certain cancers."

Bristol-Myers Squibb also indicated it will continue to focus on therapeutic areas including HIV, hepatitis B, heart failure, oncology, immunoscience and fibrotic diseases. The company added that it will "continue to advance the lifecycle and late-stage pipeline" for its diabetes franchise, hepatitis C compounds and drugs including Eliquis (apixaban), Sprycel (dasatinib) and Orencia (abatacept).

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