Genome Pioneer Celera Lays off 132; Pink Slips Are in Line with Strategy to Develop drugs.(BUSINESS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 12, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Genome Pioneer Celera Lays off 132; Pink Slips Are in Line with Strategy to Develop drugs.(BUSINESS)


Byline: William Glanz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Celera Genomics Group yesterday laid off 132 workers, or 16 percent of its work force, two years after it completed one of the most groundbreaking achievements in biotechnology.

Celera was founded in 1998 and reached scientific stardom in June 2000 when it mapped the human genome, an accomplishment that is expected to boost medicine by helping researchers find cures for diseases ranging from cancer to arthritis. The discovery was also expected to boost Celera, which planned to make money selling genetic data to drug companies and academics.

Celera, based in Rockville, will fire 132 employees, some of whom were involved in the landmark genome-mapping project. Employees involved in sales, administration and analyzing and managing of the genetic data that Celera gathered also will be laid off.

The cuts leave Celera with about 700 workers.

"This isn't motivated by trying to eliminate costs. We can't save our way to growth. It's about sticking with the strategy," Celera spokesman Rob Bennett said of the layoffs.

The company has shifted from one marketing the genetic database to a drug developer.

Its metamorphosis began last year, when Celera bought drug maker Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $177 million. Then in April Celera reached an agreement with Applied Biosystems Group to let that company market the genetic data Celera gathered when it mapped the human genome. Like Celera, Applied Biosystems, in Foster City, Calif., is owned by Applera Corp.

The job cuts were not orchestrated solely by Celera President Kathy Ordonez, even though they come just six weeks after she took over the company on April 22. J. Craig Venter resigned as president in January.

"Aspects of this were under evaluation before she came on," Mr. Bennett said.

Jonathan Aschoff, senior genomics and biotechnology analyst at Arlington-based investment banker Friedman Billings Ramsey, said the layoffs did not come as a surprise.

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