Pharma staff told to work at home as Biogen deals with coronavirus outbreak


The coronavirus has begun to affect day-to-day operations at pharma companies, with Biogen dealing with an outbreak linked to a management meeting at an affected hotel, and others telling staff to work at home as a precaution.

According to press reports Biogen’s staff have been told to work from home until further notice after around 15 employees became infected with the virus causing COVID-19 after attending a meeting at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.

Citing company sources MarketWatch said that about 175 people attended the meeting including chief executive Michel Vounatsos and workers from the Swiss operation.

Employees who attended the meeting will be tested and have been told to self-quarantine, the company said.

Eli Lilly has also asked its employees to work from home if possible to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, according to separate reports.

All US employees were told on Sunday via email that the step was a precautionary measure and that the pharma company is restricting domestic travel.

There are no known cases of Eli Lilly employees becoming infected, and the step was taken because of how the virus is spreading across the US.

While several pharma companies are already rushing to develop potential therapies for coronavirus, such as Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Gilead, and Moderna, there are concerns that the outbreak may disrupt clinical research.

Ronny Gal, an analyst at Bernstein, told Barron’s: “We are right now at the stage where everybody is really worried about this.

“Whether this becomes something that you cannot fix, we will find out in about three months.”

Most trials require participants to visit hospitals for dosing or check-ups – and the concern is that in areas affected by COVID-19 they may stop showing up.

In an earnings call in mid-February IQVIA’s CEO Ari Bousbib said that in China test subjects had begun missing appointments.