Shire to establish US headquarters in Massachusetts, move 500 staff

Shire announced Wednesday plans to establish its US operational headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts, moving more than 500 staff to the location from its Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania site. The company noted that the relocation, which is expected to generate cost savings of $25 million annually starting in 2016, will "streamline business globally through two principal locations" in Massachusetts and Switzerland. Shire added that the move will "also enable greater alignment and execution of priorities between [its] commercial and research and development teams."

CEO Flemming Ornskov said "Shire has a great opportunity to combine our Chesterbrook and Lexington talent with the leading biotech resources in the Massachusetts area, and we consider ready access to these resources an important element in the future growth of our company." The executive indicated that "we're expanding the number of therapeutic areas that will be managed in Massachusetts."

"Strategically, we’re trying to align ourselves more with a biotech perspective and that fits in with Massachusetts," Ornskov commented, adding "as we’ve evolved, we’re becoming more biotechy in our approach." The chief executive said that the Lexington campus will also house specialty drug programmes that have been managed in Chesterbrook, including the company's neuroscience and gastrointestinal disease research.

The company said that employees will be moved in phases, beginning in the first quarter of next year, and plans to complete the relocation of employees by the first quarter of 2016. A spokesman for the drugmaker indicated that the positions that will be relocated to Massachusetts include R&D and commercial posts as well as associated supporting positions.

Shire's move comes after AbbVie abandoned its bid to merge with the company, citing changes to US rules designed to limit tax-inversion deals. Ornskov indicated that Shire is due a $1.6-billion break-up fee from AbbVie, noting "we have a little more to invest in innovative medicines." The executive also noted that Shire remains interested in deals, adding "we’re an acquisitive company. And if we were to do further acquisitions, we would concentrate the US part in Massachusetts."

Shire also said Wednesday that Jeff Poulton, head of investor relations, will serve as interim chief financial officer effective January 1, replacing James Bowling, who previously announced plans to leave the drugmaker "to pursue a new career opportunity." Bowling will depart on February 28, 2015.

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