UCB has announced plans to cut 2,000 jobs to improve the Belgian firm’s “profitability and competitiveness in the fast-changing bio-pharma world".

The move, which will affect around 17% of UCB’s workforce, will see around 2,400 positions made redundant, while 400 new posts will be created. At the same time, 300 workers will be re-deployed to UCB's core sites.

UCB said that the job cuts are part of its restructuring programme called Shape (unveiled at the beginning of the month) which will re-allocate 300 million euros into its core central nervous system and immunology business areas. The moves are a response to the loss of patent protection on the allergy drug Zyrtec (cetirizine) last year and the antiepileptic Keppra (levetiracetam) next year.

Roch Doliveux, UCB chief executive, said that “patent expiries are challenging times”. However, given the recent approval of Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) for Crohn's disease in the USA and the positive opinions for Neupro (rotigotine) for restless legs syndrome and Vimpat (lacosamide) for epilepsy in Europe, “the time is now to take action”, he said. The moves will “shape UCB for the future and become a specialist company”, he added.