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Lilly shuttering UK neuroscience research site

Eli Lilly plans on closing its neuroscience research hub in the U.K. as it seeks to consolidate R&D in a Massachusetts facility that has capabilities in newer technologies.The majority of the 270 employees will be relocated to a new facility in the area, although Lilly expects to lay off as many as 80 workers. The company said the laboratory being closed has 45 neuroscience researchers supported by 35 chemists.Lilly said the decision was part of a “global review of research operations” and is not related to the uncertainty surrounding the U.K.’s approaching departure from the European Union.

In spite of the difficulties in getting new products approved, neuroscience remains an R&D focus of the Indianapolis-based big pharma company.

Lilly’s pipeline includes five Alzheimer’s disease projects and four candidates in pain relief, but it has famously had setbacks in Alzheimer’s with its experimental drug solanezumab. On Friday, the company gained Food and Drug Administration approval for Reyvow (lasmiditan), an acute migraine treatment.

The facility in Erl Wood, Surrey, had been open for 50 years, and had “delivered world-class research,” Lilly chief medical officer Tim Garnett said in a statement. “They are some of the most talented people in the industry and this proposal is not a reflection on their hard work or skill.”

Closure and sale of the facility will occur by late 2020. The laboratory-based research functions will move to Lilly’s site in Cambridge, Mass., where emerging technologies like gene therapy and RNA interference can be brought to bear on disorders of the brain and nervous system.

A small number of research roles will move to an Indianapolis research facility.

Lilly maintains a U.K. commercial headquarters in Basingstoke. No changes are anticipated there, and the company plans on retaining “core clinical and regulatory functions” in Great Britain. The Erl Wood employees who remain on the job will be moved to a new location, although the company did not state where that will be.

Among the positions retained in the UK location are “a small number of bioinformatics and neuroscience roles” that will focus on external R&D collaborations in Britain and Europe.