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Eyeing Drug Development, Millennium Quietly Lays Off 100 Staff

NEW YORK, Dec. 16 - Millennium Pharmaceuticals has laid off at least 103 full-time and contract employees as it continues to make strides downstream, GenomeWeb learned today.


Fifty-four full-time staffers and 49 contract employees in the firm's Cambridge, Mass., facility were told last week that their last day on the job will be Jan. 11, according to a company spokeswoman.


The lay offs, which also include an undisclosed number of staffers at Millennium's facilities in San Francisco and Cambridge, UK, represent less than 5 percent of the company's workforce worldwide.


The cuts "are the result of the decision to place more emphasis on drug development and commercial growth rather than early discovery," said the spokeswoman, Adriana Jenkins.


Jenkins would not detail the nature of the jobs cuts, saying instead that they centered on early discovery and research. She stressed that "no departments are being completely eliminated."


The move came exactly one week after Millennium announced big changes in top management, including the departure of COO and CFO Kevin Starr. Starr, whom Millennium said will step down to spend more time with his family, will be replaced by Kenneth Bate, an executive with investment-services firm JSB Partners.


Additionally, Millennium announced John Maraganore, senior vice president of strategic product development, will leave to become president and CEO of a new therapeutic RNAi company called Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. The general managers of Millennium's four business franchises who'd until now reported to Maraganore will now report directly to Vaughn Kailian, Millennium's vice chairperson.


The executive changes also include the promotion to president, R&D, of Robert Tepper, Millennium's current CSO. He takes over from Charles Homcy, who has been elected to the board of directors, replacing Ernest Mario. Homcy will continue to work with Millennium as senior research and development advisor, the firm said.

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