US-based biopharmaceutical services company Quintiles is offering jobs to around one fifth of the Merck Serono employees affected by the planned closure of the company’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Despite considerable local resistance, Merck Serono confirmed its intention to close the Geneva site, with the loss of some 500 jobs, earlier this month.

The plan is part of a restructuring programme announced by parent company Merck KGaA earlier this year, whereby all headquarters functions will be consolidated at a single campus in Darmstadt, Germany, while key research and development positions will migrate from Geneva to Darmstadt, Boston (US) and Beijing (China).

Merck Serono said the agreement with Quintiles, with which it has a “long-standing relationship”, is the “first employment initiative” for staff affected by the Swiss restructuring.

The company “continues to explore further collaborations with strategic partners that may result in additional employment opportunities” for the Geneva-based staff, it added.

Drug development experts

Quintiles has committed to making at least 100 employment offers within the next three months to Merck Serono staff working primarily in Global Development & Medical at the Geneva headquarters. These offers will be exclusive to Merck Serono employees.

“We are always looking for highly qualified drug development experts with extensive biopharma industry experience, such as those we now have the opportunity to add from Merck Serono,” commented Paula Brown Stafford, president of clinical development at Quintiles.

She described the arrangement as “another example of our ability to help biopharma companies transform to succeed in the New Health. By adding excellent employees from Merck Serono, we can put their talents to use on expanded clinical work with Merck Serono, and also make their expertise available to other biopharma companies”.

Flexible approach

Quintiles will shortly hold an information session for Merck Serono employees and will conduct job interviews at the company’s facilities in Geneva from early July 2012. The Quintiles job offers will mainly involve positions in fields such as clinical operations, biostatistics, clinical research and drug safety.

To ease any transition, Merck Serono and Quintiles say they will apply “a pragmatic and flexible approach to exit and hiring dates, taking into account employees' preferences as well as business requirements”.