GlaxoSmithKline will lay off hundreds of research and development workers at its Research Triangle Park campus, the company said in an official notice to the state.

Approximately 900 jobs would be affected in a “downsizing” – or 20 percent of GSK’s nearly 4,500 work force in RTP. 

GSK previously confirmed layoffs but declined to disclose any figures.

The number was noted in a WARN Notice, required of businesses making mass layoffs. The job cuts will start in 2015 and impact employees in RTP, Philadelphia and in the field, but will not affect “retail sales teams focused on launching new medicines to the market.”

GSK employs about 17,000 people in the United States.

“The aim of this program is to improve performance by taking unnecessary complexity out of our operations and establish a smaller, more focused, organization, operating at lower costs, that supports our future portfolio,” GSK spokeswoman Mary Rhyne said. “Each business unit is currently deciding how to respond to this challenge. When we do have proposals, we will first share those with our employees.”


  • More details: Read GSK’s full statement about the job cuts

Jobs affected are in the following categories:

  • Chemist
  • Engineer
  • Biologist
  • Clinical development scientist
  • Statistician
  • Other managerial, technical and support roles

Cuts “are not being made across the board but are strategic,” Rhyne added.

However, hundreds of affected workers could quickly find jobs at life science research firm Parexel, which has an office in Durham. GSK signed a letter of intent which would allow up to 450 workers work in a GSK-focused business unit at Parexel.

Other affected employees will have the opportunity to work at a GSK research and development hub in Philadelphia.

The restructuring is part of a plan involving $1.5 billion in cuts, which was disclosed by GSK Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty in October.

But the cuts do not mean doom and gloom for the economy, said Mike Walden, an economist at N.C. State University.

“This does not mean the sky is falling, particularly in the Triangle,” he said. “I am, and most economists are, very bullish on this area for the next several decades.”

Robert Blouin, dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, also sees the silver lining in the layoffs.

“As they outsource more of their research and development, that will create opportunities for a school like ours,” he said.

Drug companies such as GSK are choosing to acquire possible drug candidates rather than pursue them with internal resources. The path toward winning approval, even if a compound or treatment works in tests, can take years and cost billions in development.

GSK has not only struck partnerships with emerging companies, such as Liquidia in Morrisville, but also makes investments.