Laid Off in USA, Hired in Asia

This week Albany Molecular (AMRI) announced job cuts in their New York facilities, at the same time they are hiring in their Singapore and Indian outposts. There was even a net gain in jobs, which is likely small consolation to those let go.

This is not a real surprise of course, as AMRI operate to provide cheap as possible chemical services and it is still a fact that such services are more economic in the far east and also eastern Europe: AMRI also have a site in Hungary. Though salaries are on the rise in parts of China, for example, there is still a significant gap, but that is not the only factor. AMRI commented in their press release that this was what their clients wanted, so it is not just AMRI moving their operation overseas, it has been requested that they give them chemical service from that area of the world. So not only the cheaper costs, pharma companies are looking to establish themselves in those growing markets.

It is not just AMRI that are doing this, pharmaceutical companies have laid off a lot of people in the last few years and have set up either sites in China or India or have agreements with companies based there. This is a process that will continue – increase even – before it gets better for western chemists, as start-up companies here work out how to best get customers to use the local talent rather than cheaper alternatives overseas. How they might do this is not straightforward; they might offer a specialist service that is either not offered or for which the data produced needs to be of high quality. Something further along the drug discovery process might apply here – for example lead optimization to overcome PK problems, although relying on keeping a lead here might end up being disasterous. Alternately they might act as an intermediary between the two continents, which might at least be a short-term solution for pharma that wants to make use of the cheaper costs but is worried about the potential pitfalls.

The evolution of the drug discovery business in the US and Europe is likely to be a painful process for those of us directly involved. But it will have to evolve, else a lot of trained drug discovery chermists will have to find a new way of making their living.

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3 comments on “Laid Off in USA, Hired in Asia

  1. akshatrathi294 says:

    True that. An impending future. What can be done about it? Any thoughts on how chemists can get innovative?

  2. Chemjobber says:

    Perhaps I am naive, but it IS a little shocking that the shift overseas being announced more or less coupled together (i.e. laying off here, hiring elsewhere); I suppose that the press wouldn’t have let them get away with the “Who? Us?!” defense.

    It would be very interesting to measure the number of medicinal chemist positions worldwide over the last 20 years and how this has changed.

    • David Perrey says:

      I was shocked by the news when I first read it too, then after mulling it over I thought “well, it is nothing we didn’t expect, really.”

      But I think you have hit the nail right there – it is the announcement of the two together, rather shoving it in our faces, that made it a shock.

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