AIDS research centre closure to cost 170 Laval biotech jobs

By Robert Frank

Four years ago, German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim was crowing about the new, $36 million research
centre that it had just opened in Laval at
the junction of highways 15 and 440.

On Sept. 18, the company abruptly
announced in a news release that it
intends to close the centre and eliminate
170 jobs—more than one-fifth of its
Canadian workforce—in one of the company’s four main research centres worldwide.

The International Center of Excellence
for Virology was developing medication to
treat lethal viruses like HIV, which causes
AIDS. The company has already produced
a drug to treat the disease. It also was
developing molecules to treat Hepatitis C,
for which the company currently has a
drug Laval-developed drug undergoing
advanced clinical trials.

“Beyond these compounds, we don’t see the need to invest in new research programs,” Dr. Michel Pairet told The
in a telephone interview from
the company’s world headquarters in
Ingelheim, Germany.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s global head of research and development added that
that the impact on its Laval employees
will be addressed “on a case by case

“Some will go into retirement,” suggested Dr. Pairet, noting that the facility
will remain open until March 31, 2013.

“In addition, as soon as we have openings in our other research centres, we
will offer them on a preferential basis to
our colleagues in Laval, if they are prepared to move to one of our research
facilities in Germany, Austria or the
United States and have the needed
expertise profile.”

“We will also do everything possible to
help them find new positions with external partners in the private and public sector, as well as investors,” he added.

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