GlaxoSmithKline's plans for reconfiguring its research-and-development efforts aim to boost cost-effectiveness without reducing the number of scientists in Research Triangle Park or elsewhere, said a company spokeswoman.
"The hope is there will be no layoffs," spokeswoman Melinda Stubbee said Tuesday after the pharmaceutical company announced tweaks to its R&D plan.
Stubbee said a small number of employees in RTP will be affected by the changes but declined to be more specific. And those who are affected are expected to remain in the company's R&D unit but in another capacity.
CEO Andrew Witty announced in his review of GSK's fourth-quarter results that the company has decided to shut down three of its 38 small-scale R&D units, which the company calls Discovery Performance Units, while at the same time creating four new ones.
The company created the units in 2008 in a move designed to increase efficiency. Each has between five and 70 scientists and has a singular focus, such as a specific disease. The units aren't site-specific; workers in one of the units can be spread across multiple locations.
R&D is one of the chief functions of the company's RTP operations, where it has about 3,800 workers. GSK also has 600 workers at its manufacturing plant in Zebulon.
Although she declined to provide specifics, Stubbee said the number of employees worldwide affected by the changes is smaller than the number of R&D jobs currently available.
"Actually, we're in a position where we're hiring," she said.
There is a possibility that some affected employees could end up relocating.
"The people who have been displaced will get a chance to see what other opportunities are available," she said. "The decision of what they would apply for ... would be up to them."
A performance review of the research and development units led to the shakeup. The review also led to decisions to increase the budget of six units and cut the budget of five others.
Stubbee said the company isn't identifying the focus of the new and discontinued units for competitive reasons.
Witty wrote in his review that he was encouraged that the units have delivered increased returns on investment, but more progress is needed.
GSK also reported Tuesday that revenue in the fourth quarter fell 2 percent to $11.24 billion after adjusting for currency fluctuations. Bloomberg News reported that sales were less than analysts had anticipated. The results have been converted from British pounds.
Net income totaled $1.93 billion, reversing a loss of a year ago.
GSK's revenue has ben depressed by declining sales of the controversial diabetes drug Avandia, the herpes medicine Valtrex and its pandemic flu vaccines. Its "underlying sales" after excluding those drugs rose 1 percent.
For all of 2011, GSK generated $44.09 billion in sales and net income of $8.14 billion.