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Roivant cuts staff, reassigns others in major reshuffle, as insider decries 'bloodbath'

June 26, 2018
Life sciences

Roivant has laid off some staff and reassigned others to subsidiaries in a notable strategic shift. The changes see Roivant shed around 10% of its staff and cede responsibility for others to the heads of its portfolio of startups.

FierceBiotech first learned of the restructuring from a source familiar with the matter early this morning, who said Roivant laid off 70 people and reassigned 130 more to the company’s subsidiaries late last week. That source said people within Roivant described the changes as a “bloodbath.”

But the picture painted by Roivant is more benign. Roivant said it laid off less than 10% of its employees, with a spokesman adding that 67 employees were laid off, not 70, and that “of over 130 employees in the Durham office, only 25 were laid off.”

Either way, the changes amount to a major restructuring. Roivant describes itself as having “several hundred staff members.” Going off LinkedIn profiles, the figure is in the region of 350, suggesting the reorganization may affect around half of Roivant’s employees when both layoffs and reassignments are factored in.

Most of the affected employees will find new homes at Roivant’s portfolio of startups. Roivant is set up to provide scientific support and other services to its eight “vant” startups from its own facilities and offices, lessening the need for each business to have its own infrastructure. Pursuing that model, Roivant has expanded in Durham, North Carolina, in recent years, picking up scientists let go by other business that used to have big presences in the region.

The changes suggests Roivant is now tweaking that model, reassigning some of its staff to the subsidiaries. Such an administrative change would give leadership teams at each subsidiary more direct control over the people handling their projects.

Other employees have left the Roivant group entirely. Roivant said these staff mainly worked in central support groups such as accounting, HR and IT. That statement is supported by the LinkedIn profiles of people who have left Roivant this month, many of whom work in IT and other data positions. But the layoffs also affected analytical scientists at Roivant’s Durham facility, according to the source.

As the source explained, “Nobody at the NC site saw it coming. They were all told earlier in the week that nobody would be laid off and everybody would be reassigned. The scientific team in Durham seemed to be hit the hardest, while the NYC administrative office was hit hard as well.”

“Durham employees were told in a company town hall meeting last week that Roivant was making this move from ‘a position of strength’—not because of financial reasons. Apparently, the individual Vant leadership was pushing to have direct control over the scientists handling their projects while calling on Vivek to make the parent company ‘leaner,’” the source added.

A spokesperson for Roivant defended the moves. “Given our strong position as a company, we were able to treat them very generously and with respect, and we are proud of that. For all remaining employees, we are excited to give them more value-added opportunities and greater chances to benefit from structured mobility across the Vant family over their careers,” they said.

The company also announced new changes across its businesses, with a new unit in the form of Roivant Pharma, which will be led by Mayukh Sukhatme, M.D., formerly CBO at Roivant.

And Benjamin Zimmer, who oversaw the formation and launch of Datavant while head of special projects at Roivant, becomes president of Roivant Health, another new business unit “focused on launching companies that bring innovative medicines to emerging markets and improve the process of developing and commercializing new medicines through the application of technology.”

There’s more launches, as Altavant Sciences, a new biopharma led by CEO William T. Symonds, Pharm.D., also came into life, with the company looking to “apply drug development approaches developed at Roivant to promising investigational therapies spanning multiple therapeutic areas beginning with RVT-1201, a potential treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension and other indications,” according to a statement.

News of the changes comes months after Axovant, the biotech that put Roivant on the map, cut deep into its headcount following the failure of its lead Alzheimer’s candidate in phase 3.

By Nick Paul Taylor

Source: Fierce Biotech

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