* Drugmaker eyes Cambridge Biomedical Campus - sources
* Relocation centrepiece of new CEO's restructuring plan
* New research centre and corporate HQ to cost some $500 mln
By Ben Hirschler and Tom Bill
LONDON, May 20 AstraZeneca is closing in
on a site for its new $500 million home in Cambridge, with a
biomedical park just south of the English city the most likely
site, property industry sources said.
Moving research and global headquarters to Cambridge, with
minimal disruption, is a key test for new Chief Executive Pascal
Soriot as he tries to change the drugmaker's culture and puts
ground-breaking science at the centre of its activities.
The move to the university city, involving nearly 2,000
jobs, is the centrepiece of a $2.3 billion restructuring plan
unveiled by Soriot in March, which also includes a 10 percent
cut in overall staff numbers by 2016.
An AstraZeneca spokeswoman said on Monday that the drugmaker
was still considering its options, adding an update on the final
location was likely in the next couple of months.
Two property industry insiders familiar with the deal said
the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) was the frontrunner. The
other option is Granta Park, another research park outside
Cambridge where AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit is already located.
Situated two miles from central Cambridge, the CBC is an
extension of a site occupied by the world-famous Addenbrooke's
Hospital that has been developed in conjunction with the
University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council.
With outline planning consent for 70 acres to accommodate up
to 2.3 million square feet of new buildings, there is plenty of
room for the purpose-built global research centre and corporate
headquarters that AstraZeneca plans to establish by 2016 at cost
of around 330 million pounds ($500 million).
CBC Project Director Jeanette Walker said the park was in
advanced talks with several major companies.
"We are hoping to close a number of discussions this summer
that would see building start early next year for a number of
potential occupiers," she told Reuters, while declining to
identify specific companies.
The new AstraZeneca facility could eventually reach 750,000
square feet, although not all that would be delivered in 2016,
according to one property industry source.
A smooth transition to the new site is crucial for
AstraZeneca, which is in a race to develop new drugs and strike
external deals to replenish its medicine chest as old
blockbusters lose patent protection, sapping sales.
Menelas Pangalos, the group's head of innovative medicines,
said the drugmaker would offer enticing packages to make sure
key scientific staff relocated to Cambridge.
"We are going to have very aggressive retention and
relocation plans. We have time to plan the move and make it as
flexible and as attractive as possible for people," he said.
"Over the next month or two we should be able to talk about
that in a lot more detail."
Many AstraZeneca scientists were shocked by the decision two
months ago to shutter the company's Alderley Park facility in
northwest England, for many years a hub of the group's research.
The closure, while offset by the Cambridge investment, was
also a blow to the British government. Alderley Park lies within
the Cheshire parliamentary constituency of finance minister
AstraZeneca aims to tap into an environment of world-class
academic and clinical life sciences research in its new home in
Cambridge. In addition to ready access to hospital clinicians,
its researchers will also be rubbing shoulders with top
Cambridge's Laboratory of Molecular Biology - home to 13
Nobel Prize winners over the years - has also moved to a new CBC
facility that will be formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on
"We've lost some of our scientific confidence," Soriot
complained earlier this year, when setting out his major
overhaul for AstraZeneca.
Whether the big move will help the drugmaker regain its
swagger in drug development remains to be seen. The relocation
will only be completed in 2016 and the fruits of future research
collaboration with its new neighbours are even further off.