The Massachusetts drug maker EMD Serono will eliminate 133 jobs from its staff of 500 scientists and clinical drug developers at the firm’s research center in Billerica, effective March 21.
EMD Serono is the Rockland-based US health care business of the German life sciences giant Merck KGaA, which employs more than 60,000 people worldwide. The layoffs affect nearly 27 percent of employees at the Billerica site and 11 percent of EMD Serono’s 1,200 employees in Massachusetts.
The company said that the layoffs were part of the firm’s strategy announced in October to double its research and development productivity. To do that, the firm will increasingly lean on drugs licensed from or developed through partnerships with other biotech companies.
EMD Serono said that therapies designed outside its labs will account for more than half of its future products, but that it “expects to maintain the output of its internal discovery engine.” The company is focused on drugs for cancer, immune diseases, and neurological diseases.
The company said that the majority of the job cuts come from the Discovery and Development Technologies team, which employs chemists and protein scientists who design and optimize new drugs.