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Novartis closes Swiss, Chinese centres in research revamp

* Shanghai, Zurich research centres to close

* Tropical disease research moves to California from Singapore

ZURICH Oct 5 Novartis said on Wednesday it was shuttering research centres in Switzerland and China, part of the Swiss drug maker's bid to trim some costly locations and centralise control over its drug discovery programs.

Novartis, which employs 120,000 globally, is also relocating its tropical disease research arm from Singapore to California.

The Basel-based company is consolidating research oversight within its Swiss headquarters and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) near Boston, now headed by Jay Bradner.

"The creation of a unified early discovery research group based in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be closely integrated with NIBR's drug discovery teams around the world," Novartis said in a statement.

Additionally, Novartis is creating two new "centres of excellence" for bio-therapeutic research in Basel and Cambridge to explore new therapies derived from living organisms to combat disease.

In the process, 73 positions will be eliminated with Novartis's closure of its Esbatech facility near Zurich.

SINGAPORE SHIFT

Novartis also will shut down its Shanghai biologics group and shift its Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore to near San Francisco, California, saying it wanted researchers to work on infectious diseases from a single location.

The institute, started in 2002 with help from the Singapore Economic Development Board to tackle diseases including malaria, had about 100 staff members. Novartis did not say how many jobs in Shanghai and Singapore would go.

As part of its new research strategy, Novartis said on Wednesday it is creating 20 to 25 new positions at its Basel headquarters.

Novartis has been paring expensive activities since announcing a revamp of its pharmaceuticals division in May.

In August, Novartis disbanded its stand-alone Cell and Gene Therapy unit, eliminating 120 mostly U.S. jobs while inserting promising programmes such as chimeric antigen replacement therapy, or CART, into its oncology business. (Reporting by John Miller, editing by John Revill and Jane Merriman)

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