Madison’s premier stem cell company has cut its staff by 10 percent.
But the reduction may be short-lived as the company prepares to boost its manufacturing capacity.
Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc. (FCDI), formerly known as Cellular Dynamics International, eliminated 10 percent of its positions worldwide “in an effort to realign the business to innovate with greater speed, efficiency and capability,” chairman and CEO Seimi Satake said.
The reduction took effect on Thursday. Sales, marketing and administrative jobs were targeted.
“This was a very difficult decision as we value all of our employees and the contributions they made to the business, however the reorganization is necessary to ensure that we can maintain accelerated growth in the core areas of regenerative medicine applications and iPSC technology,” Satake said.
Satake did not disclose how many workers were affected in total, or specifically, in Madison. But he said the company now has 143 employees across all of its locations.
In June, the company told the Wisconsin State Journal that FCDI had 174 employees, including 143 in Madison alone.
FCDI is based in Madison where Cellular Dynamics was founded by UW-Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson in 2004. It was purchased by Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm Holdings Corp. in 2015 for $307 million.
FCDI also has a branch in Novato, California, where it has partnered with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to create a stem cell bank. Sites in Europe handle sales and applications support.
The company, at 525 Science Drive in University Research Park, manufactures industrial quantities of more than a dozen types of iPSCs, or human induced pluripotent stem cells, which are skin or blood cells that scientists reprogram back into their embryonic state and then coax into specific cell types for clients to use in scientific research or drug development.
FCDI’s heart cells are being used in tests on the International Space Station and, in an agreement with the University of California-Irvine announced in June, FCDI is manufacturing specialized brain cells that will be used to help develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.
FCDI and Dr. David Gamm, director of UW-Madison’s McPherson Eye Research Institute, established Opsis Therapeutics in 2016, a joint venture aimed at treating age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa, and FCDI officials have said the company is working to develop other drugs of its own.
Meanwhile, FCDI is adding manufacturing space at 465 Science Drive, across from its current building, to handle more research and new products, Satake said. A city of Madison building permit, issued in August, lists the projected cost of the 33,000-square-foot remodeling at $3.8 million.
In 2017, the company considered moving to Verona, where it was discussing plans to occupy a $40 million, 133,000-square-foot laboratory and office building on Kettle Moraine Trail, to be built by developer John K. Livesey and leased to FCDI. The Verona City Council had approved $6 million in financial incentives before the project was scrapped a few months later.
Satake indicated that jobs will be added back after the new space is finished. “Over the next year, we expect the overall number of jobs to be very similar to the number prior to the reorganization,” he said.
Satake said Fujifilm intends to stay in Madison, and to invest in research and development.
“Our company is committed to remaining in Madison. In fact, development of our cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) facility is underway at Science Drive and we are shifting key talent to this area in preparation of facility completion,” he said.
“We have planted our roots in Madison and have forged strong relationships among industry, academia and government within the robust health-care ecosystem,” Satake said.
FCDI was the first stem cell company established in Madison. Annual revenue has not been disclosed.
Toyko-based Fujifilm Holdings Corp. is a conglomerate with 79,000 employees, founded in 1934.