Novo Nordisk has announced plans to lay off around 400 staff in research and development (R&D) roles at its China and Denmark sites as part of its R&D restructuring strategy.

The restructuring aims to boost the company’s pipeline for serious chronic diseases.

Novo Nordisk said that the redundancies are expected to fund biological and technological innovation across its core and new therapy areas.

The company will also establish four new biotech-like Transformational Research Units this year in Denmark, the US and the UK, which will focus on new treatment approaches and platform technologies.

These facilities will operate as so-called ‘satellites’ to Novo Nordisk’s main R&D function, and will primarily work on priority areas, including translational cardio-metabolic and stem cell research.

The company also intends to bolster its investment in automation and digital capabilities. Furthermore, laboratory infrastructure and IT systems will be integrated in order to improve the R&D efficiency.

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“Delivering on our ambition of achieving higher levels of innovation across a broader and more diverse range of chronic diseases requires that we allocate resources to our priority areas.”

Novo Nordisk chief science officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen said: “Delivering on our ambition of achieving even higher levels of innovation across a broader and more diverse range of chronic diseases requires that we have the optimal future skill base and allocate resources to our priority areas.

“Unfortunately, this implies that a number of valued colleagues will lose their jobs in order to ensure that we have sufficient new research capabilities needed to support our long-term growth ambitions.”

The company plans to identify and pursue new therapeutic methods via external alliances.

To support this strategy, Novo Nordisk will establish a new Business Development unit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.

One of Novo Nordisk’s external agreements this year was the acquisition of biotechnology firm Ziylo last month to bolster research on glucose-responsive insulin.