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Broad Institute Lays off 27 Amid Ending of NIH Program, Shift in Therapeutics Development Focus

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Broad Institute confirmed that it is laying off 27 employees as the National Institutes of Health stopped funding for a program, and the institute separately decided to refocus its therapeutic development efforts.

The institute confirmed the layoffs to GenomeWeb Daily News in an email, saying the reduction in headcount comes as the NIH ended a program for service centers it had previously established to run chemical screens for labs around the country. The program was called the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network.

According to the NIH's website, the MLPCN program comprises three types of centers, including comprehensive centers, which provide assay, cheminformatics/informatics, and medicinal chemistry services within a single site. Comprehensive centers included, along with the Broad, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the NIH Chemical Genomics Center, and the Scripps Research Institute.

Also in the MLPCN program were specialized screening centers, which handled "specialized types of assays, including handling assay informatics." These included Johns Hopkins University, the Southern Research Institute, and the University of New Mexico, NIH said.

The third type of center — specialized chemistry centers — provided medicinal chemistry and cheminformatics support for "performing structure-activity relationships" often required to produce useful chemical probes from screening hits. Such centers were located at the University of Kansas and Vanderbilt University.

It is unclear whether NIH has stopped funding for all three types of centers. On deadline, an agency spokesperson could not provide additional details.

In an e-mail to GWDN, Patrick Bartosch, a spokesman for Sanford-Burnham, said that its MLPCN funding would be ending this month. The program "has been winding down over the past few months. We have had plenty of time to plan for this and no layoffs are anticipated as a result."

He added that Sanford-Burnham initiated partnerships with pharma and other players that use the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, Sanford-Burnham's drug screening center, in anticipation of the ending of the funding. At its Florida site it partnered with the Florida Department of Health to start the Florida Translational Research Program, which provides researchers across the state access to Sanford-Burnham's Prebys Center and drug discovery expertise.

As for the Broad, its spokesperson added that its layoffs also resulted from a shift in its therapeutics development program to "focus on Broad therapeutics projects that are driven by Broad Science. These projects are funded by philanthropists including Carlos Slim, Eli Broad, and collaborators."

In the fall, the Carlos Slim Foundation pledged $74 million to the Broad, while Eli and Edythe Broad separately announced a $100 million gift to the institute that bears their name.

"This new focus will require different people with different skills," the Broad spokesperson said. "Ultimately, we plan to hire more people than were laid off at the end of April."

The Boston Globe first reported the layoffs.

In March, the Broad said it planned to lay off 22 employees at the end of the month after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reduced funding for the Broad's genome sequencing center.

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