* Cambridge Biomedical Campus to house new HQ and R&D centre
* Some 2,000 jobs to be located on $500 million site by 2016
* Move forms centrepiece of plan to overhaul drug research
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, June 18 AstraZeneca has chosen a
science park on the southern outskirts of Cambridge, England,
next to the world-renowned Addenbrooke's Hospital, for its new
$500 million global headquarters and research centre.
Property industry sources told Reuters last month that the
Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) was the most likely site for
the new facility, which will house some 2,000 employees - a
decision confirmed by the drugmaker on Tuesday.
Transplanting the heart of the company to the university
city is the centrepiece of a $2.3 billion restructuring plan
unveiled by new Chief Executive Pascal Soriot in March, which
also includes a 10 percent cut in overall staff numbers by 2016.
Soriot is trying to turn around the group's fortunes after a
series of drug development disappointments by investing more in
research and bolt-on acquisitions, while reining in costs.
AstraZeneca said at the time that it planned to establish a
new global research and development centre and corporate
headquarters in the city by 2016, at cost of around 330 million
pounds ($500 million), but did not disclose the exact location.
The group currently has its corporate headquarters in
London, while its main research centre is in Alderley Park,
northwest England, where research will be shut down.
A smooth move to the new purpose-built Cambridge centre is a
key test for Soriot as he tries to change the culture at
Britain's second-largest pharmaceuticals group to put science at
the centre of its activities.
"Moving to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus means our people
will be able to rub shoulders with some of the world's best
scientists and clinicians carrying out some of the world's
leading research - that's a really exciting prospect," Soriot
In addition to Addenbrooke's Hospital, the CBC is also home
to the Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, the Medical
Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the Wellcome
Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science and the Cancer Research
UK Cambridge Institute.
AstraZeneca will occupy approximately 11 acres of the 70
acre campus, which is situated two miles from central Cambridge
and its university colleges.
The decision to select CBC is a blow for Granta Park, the
other main location option, which is outside Cambridge and
already houses AstraZeneca's biotech unit MedImmune.
Science Minister David Willetts said AstraZeneca's move was
excellent news and a vote of confidence in British science and
the position of Cambridge as a centre of academic excellence. It
also underscores the growing economic importance of Cambridge,
which is home to more than 1,500 high-tech firms.
Still, AstraZeneca management will have to work hard to
ensure it retains its best scientists during the transition.
Menelas Pangalos, the group's head of innovative medicines, said
last month the drugmaker would offer enticing packages to make
sure key staff relocated.
Whether the Cambridge's scientific "stardust" will rub off
on AstraZeneca remains to be seen. The relocation process will
take three years and the fruits of any new research will be even
further down the road, making the shift a long-term bet.