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5 July, 2006 - 15:44 By Staff Reporter

Genomics manufacturer announces 50 job losses

Upwards of 50 scientists are to lose their jobs following the planned closure of a Huntingdon based research equipment manufacturer.

Genomic Solutions, which established its East of England base in 1999, is being reorganised by US parent, Harvard Bioscience. The activities conducted from the Huntingdon facility are either being moved back to Massachusetts or being discontinued.

Genomic Solutions specialises in the robotic fluid handling systems, with development, manufacturing, sales, marketing and support for the UK market overseen from the base.

The instruments rapidly process and analyse samples of DNA, RNA or proteins. The systems are typically sold for over £14k each.

Harvard Bioscience is looking for a buyer for its capital equipment business, of which Genomic Solutions forms part, and said it would call halt to the process if a buyer was found. The shut-down has started and is expected to be completed by the end of August.

Genomics Solutions has seen declining sales performances over recent years. A series of acquisitions of local companies during the UK operation’s lifetime mean that a substantial number of products and intellectual property developed in the region will be lost to it following the closure.

Harvard Bioscience – through its Genomic Solutions subsidiary – acquired Cambridge based BioRobotics for $3.2m in 2003.

Following the deal, the genomics research instrument maker’s Cambridge operation was closed and staff moved to Huntingdon.

NASDAQ listed Harvard also bought up Huntingdon based Cartesian Technologies in 2001, following the same pattern of closure and consolidation. The group does employ a further 60 in the UK, many of them at different business segments based in this region, but these jobs are not under threat.

The group said it expected to have to carry between $600k and $800k in severance and benefit costs and up to $300k in lease termination charges. Harvard said it was in the process of evaluating the value of stock at the Huntingdon facility.

Genomic Solutions recent past has been characterised by a series of restructuring purges, which has seen the workforce incrementally pared back.

It was the first genomics manufacturer to establish a base in the region, employing around 40 when first established, with the promise of many more jobs to come.

Harvard is also the parent of one of Cambridge Science Park’s first ever residents, Biochrom, another lab equipment manufacturer.

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