Mass. Biotechs open door to hiring

The largest biotech employers are adding hundreds of jobs as they advance new products and bring new facilities online. In addition, companies that provide outsourced services for life sciences companies, from contract manufacturing to consultants, also are seeing growth due in part to increasing pressure from investors to cut costs and run lean.

Cambridge-based Genzyme Corp. has a whopping 686 jobs open, and 502 of them are in Massachusetts. More than 200 of the jobs are located in Framingham, where the company has just completed construction on a $300 million manufacturing plant. The plant will produce Cerezyme for Gaucher disease and Fabrazyme for Fabry disease, two drugs that have experienced shortages since the company closed its Allston plant for six weeks last summer following the discovery of a virus. The company anticipates regulatory approval for the production of Fabrazyme in 2011 and for the production of Cerezyme in 2012. The company’s current head count is about 12,000.

Shire plc, a U.K.-based company whose Human Genetic Therapies division is headquartered in Massachusetts, is hiring to support a new facility and new products. The company has already hired 180 workers so far this year and plans to add another 180 before year’s end. Of the 180 open positions, Shire officials say, more than 100 of them are located in Massachusetts.

“We have way too many applicants for entry-level jobs, but few candidates for regulatory affairs positions, and we have seven open,” said Jodi Allen, Shire’s head of global recruitment. About half of the new positions are needed to staff a new manufacturing plant that will be coming online before the end of the year, in Lexington. The company also is hiring in support of its newly approved drug for Gaucher disease, Vpriv. The company is waiting to hear when the Food and Drug Administration will make a decision on another drug candidate to treat Fabry disease, and Allen said that news will likely trigger more hires. Current head count in Massachusetts is approximately 1,300.

Cambridge-based Biogen Idec is hiring for 208 positions, including 142 spread across three locations in Massachusetts, to support its growing neurology franchise. The company reported this week that sales of two multiple sclerosis drugs were up significantly for the first quarter versus last year. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which is anticipating its first drug approval this year for a potential treatment for Hepatitis C, is hiring for 136 jobs, and 96 of those are located at its Cambridge headquarters. Vertex currently has almost 1,500 employees, of which 1,150 are based in Cambridge.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals, with head counts of 611 nationally and 364 Lexington, is looking to fill 51 positions.

Companies that help life sciences outfits reduce their costs also are seeing a surge in job growth. Tecomet Inc., a contract manufacturing operation in Wilmington that makes the metal parts of orthopedic implants, is planning to add at least 18 jobs to its current workforce of 210.  The hires will be for machinists at salaries of around $40,000 to engineers who earn between $70,000 and $90,000.

CEO Bill Dow says that the growth stems from the fact that for a long time, medical device makers, unlike other industries, were wary of outsourcing manufacturing.

“The Johnson & Johnsons of the world wanted to control manufacturing, due to concern about FDA regulations. But now there is pricing pressure on them, and they are looking at it more favorably,” Dow said.

Dow said the company experienced 10 percent growth in 2009 and is on track for 10 percent growth again this year. Revenue for the company in 2009 was approximately $51 million, Dow said. The trend, he said, is now toward multiyear contracts that provide for better planning for both sides.

Consultants are another group of life science vendors finding that their business is growing, as young companies need increased support around regulatory affairs, public relations and marketing, and government affairs.

“Health reform has really helped us. There is a lot of uncertainty , and clients want to know, ‘What does this mean for me?’ ” said Henry Glorikian, president of  Cambridge-based Scientia Advisors. The consultancy group, which works with early-stage companies, is hiring five more consultants, to a total of 33.

Laurie Halloran,  president of Waltham-based Halloran Consulting Group, says her head count has grown to 50, from about 22 a year ago, and that she is planning to add four more positions.

Not all of her consultants are full-time, and she now hires people on a temp-to-perm basis. Her company provides executives, such as chief financial officers, to small biotech companies on an as-needed basis.

“No matter how much money a small company has, more and more, the investors want to see that they are using it responsibly,” Halloran said.