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Biotechnology / Career development / Jobs

Biotech layoffs are rising, and BioBuzz is responding with a job fair in Baltimore Peninsula

There are 150 registrants (so far) set to meet with hiring biotech companies at BioBuzz’s job fair on Sept. 8. The organization’s CEO discussed the event, as well as the trends and developments it seeks to address.

City Garage in the Baltimore Peninsula (Courtesy photo from BioBuzz)

After some years of a thriving life sciences job market, the Maryland biotech industry has had more than 1,200 layoffs in the last year, according to the State of Maryland’s Work Adjustment and Retraining Notifications registry. That equates to 2.26% of the Maryland life science workforce.

In response, BioBuzz is aiming to rally around Baltimore’s laid-off biotech workers with a job fair at City Garage Science and Technology Park this Friday, Sept. 8. The catalyst behind this initiative was an employee at Emergent BioSolutions, one of the companies affected by layoffs both in January and August this year.

“Randy Seiler, an Emergent employee, contacted BioBuzz just after the news broke and asked if we’d help his colleagues by assisting him in putting on a job fair, to which we immediately agreed and got to work,” said Chris Frew, CEO of BioBuzz. “South Duvall was quick to open up City Garage to host the event, and we began reaching out to the many employers that BioBuzz collaborates with, inviting those who are actively hiring to participate.”

While the job fair was initially spurred by Randy’s desire to assist his colleagues affected by layoffs at Emergent — which came after the company faced trouble over botched COVID-19 vaccines it manufactured, and amid a pivot in what medical supplies it makes — the initiative expanded and tapped into existing resources offered by BioBuzz.

“We recognize that there have been recent layoffs in the industry, and BioBuzz is committed to providing specific resources and support,” Frew said. “This includes an open-source ‘Open to Work’ list, which we share with companies undergoing layoffs and regularly distribute to our HR and recruiter network within the BioBuzz community. Additionally, BioBuzz’s career center serves as an ongoing resource, providing job seekers with valuable information and weekly updates on new regional job opportunities.”

These resources are designed to continue aiding individuals long after the job fair and have been available before its inception.

Explaining how the job fair will operate, Frew added that employers will each have a designated table to meet with candidates, starting at noon on Friday. There will also be a few BioBuzz offices available to facilitate impromptu interviews if employers find candidates they wish to engage with more extensively.

“All job seekers attending have created unique BioBuzz profiles, which we are utilizing to match them with the employers in attendance,” Frew said.

Prospective employees can join BioBuzz on Friday to connect with opportunities or support the Baltimore biotech community. Food and light refreshments will be provided, and there will be a networking event after the fair as well.

In his email conversation with Technical.ly, Frew shared additional insights about biotech layoffs, his thoughts on the significance of EDA Tech Hubs (BioBuzz is part of Baltimore’s recent consortium) and its role in the biotech community. Please note that this interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Chris Frew. (Courtesy photo)

In your view, do these layoffs represent an aberration, or a trend that people in the region should be concerned about?

While this is a valid decision made by Emergent to change directions for the company, I’m concerned that losing 200 biotech jobs in Baltimore is a blow to the regional biotech market that will take a long time to recover from. For every biopharmaceutical industry job, the industry supports an additional 3.98 jobs, for a total employment multiplier of 4.98 (according to PhRMA). I do think people should be concerned that there is a larger layoff trend in the industry, and it’s impacting Maryland with over 1,200 layoffs in the past year.  I think we’ll see a bit of a pop in the fall with some new hiring, but largely, my feeling is that people should prepare for another 9-12 months of a tough market.

Since BioBuzz is part of the recently designated EDA Tech Hubs consortium, have you any opinions about where these layoffs fit within the state of Baltimore biotech?  

With these layoffs, the greater Baltimore region is losing one of its three main biotech anchors so we’ll only have Catalent (CDMO) and BD (Diagnostics) left as the major players in the region. The EDA Tech Hub grant would be a critical infusion of funds and focus on building back Baltimore’s biotech industry. Baltimore is my home city, and we chose to put our BioBuzz HQ here because I love this town.

However, right now we’re not retaining and attracting the companies or talent that is needed to see the industry grow. Other cities and regions have a much more mature economic development strategy and we need a coordinated approach to play catch up if Baltimore intends to be a real player in the biotech market.

In recent months, several notable layoffs have hit the biotech industry in Maryland. They include the following, according to BioBuzz :

  • HQed over in Owings Mills, Jason Pharmaceuticals (d/b/a Medifast, Inc.) reduced its workforce by 134 employees in Sept. 2022.
  • Jubilant Cadista Pharmaceuticals in Salisbury, Maryland announced an 80-employee layoff in Nov. 2022.
  • Emergent BioSolutions had a company-wide layoff of 132 employees in Jan. 2023. Emergent also had a major layoff event on Aug. 8, resulting in the termination of 231 workers in Maryland that month.
  • Catalent has an office on W. Baltimore St. and initiated layoffs affecting 135 employees in Gaithersburg and Rockville in Jan. 2023.
  • Neximmune in Gaithersburg let go of 22 employees in Jan. 2023.
  • The Pandemic Response Lab, also in Rockville, downsized its workforce by 21 employees in Jan. 2023.
  • Novavax, of Gaithersburg, faced a significant workforce reduction, cutting around 500 employees (25% of its workforce) in March 2023.
  • Adaptive Phage Therapeutics, also based in Gaithersburg, laid off 22 employees in May 2023.
  • Nutramax Laboratories in Edgewood announced the departure of 43 staff members in June 2023.
  • Ellume USA in Frederick reduced its workforce by 37 workers in July 2023.

Employers in attendance on Sept. 8 include:

  • CRB 
  • Pharmaron
  • Astek Diagnostics 
  • REGENXBIO 
  • AstraZeneca 
  • TAI 
  • Delval Equipment- 
  • CraniUS
  • Shimadzu Scientific Instruments
  • A-Bio 
  • Automated Control Concepts (ACC) 
  • Applied Control Engineering, Inc.
  • Pro Air Inc
  • The LaunchPort
  • GlenMark Pharmaceuticals 
  • Avantor
  • Workforce Genetics 

Employers can register for the job fair

Companies: BioBuzz

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