Up to 450 employees of drug giant GlaxoSmithKline who face being laid off may find employment quickly at Parexel, a life science research firm with an office in RTP.

GSK (NYSE: GSK) says it has signed a letter of intent to form a GSK-focused group within Parexel.

Parexel provides a variety of services, such as the conduct of drug clinical trials. The move could double the size of Parexel’s work force in RTP.

In a layoff notice filed with the state of North Carolina, GSK described Parexel as a “supplier” but did not identify the company by name.

Company spokesperson Melinda Stubbee told WRAL in a phone interview that the agreement “could provide jobs for up to 450 people” involved in research and development at the RTP campus.

The group is described as a “business unit within Parexel.”

A spokesperson for Parexel declined comment.

“[W]e are unable to talk about that at this time,” the spokesperson said in response to a query from WRAL TechWire about the agreement. 

Stubbee would not specify how many workers in all would be hit by the layoffs that were announced Wednesday morning. However, sources say the number is some 900.

GSK’s entire work force in the Triangle is about 4,500. Another 500 work at a production plant in Zebulon.

Parexel’s headquarters is located at 2520 Meridian Parkway in Durham. Its headquarters is located in Boston.

The firm says it “strives to be the premier provider to the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries for the development and commercialization of new medical therapies worldwide.”

Parexel operates in 51 countries.

It currently has 465 employees in the Triangle, the Parexel spokesperson said. 

The Triangle is a growing hub for so-called contract research organizations.

Durham-based Quintiles (NYSE: Q) is the world’s largest such firm.