- AstraZeneca on Tuesday officially opened its new $1.3 billion corporate headquarters and research hub in Cambridge, U.K., an initiative that began eight years ago as the British drugmaker sought to revitalize its R&D pipeline by forging new ties with academic researchers and small biotech companies.
- The location will be AstraZeneca's second-biggest by headcount, the base for 3,300 employees, and at the center of the largest biomedical cluster in Europe. AstraZeneca said the site will house the advanced technology necessary to "foster the discovery and development of next generation therapeutics, including nucleotide-based, gene-editing and cell therapies."
- Opening the building, which comes years later than originally planned, completes a process of consolidating most of its British operations under a single roof, moving corporate functions from its former London headquarters and R&D from Cheshire. The company's largest R&D hub is Gaithersburg, Maryland, the site of its MedImmune subsidiary, and it has a third in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Facing low-cost competition for many of its top-selling drugs in the early 2010s, AstraZeneca pursued a strategy of selling off aging brands while investing heavily in R&D. Moving the company's headquarters from London to Cambridge was one part of that plan, with the aim of accessing the talent and research at universities and hospitals based there.
In recent years, AstraZeneca has returned to growth, with fast sales from cancer drugs like Tagrisso and Lynparza helping replace declining revenue from primary care medicines and one-time top-sellers like Nexium and Pulmicort.
While the company has so far sold its COVID-19 vaccine on a not-for-profit basis, the shot was developed together with the University of Oxford — the kind of academic collaboration the drugmaker hopes to do more of.
AstraZeneca's executives stressed that the new headquarters will help continue that progress. "The discovery center will enable us to continue building our pipeline," CEO Pascal Soriot said at an opening ceremony, according to prepared remarks.
Originally set to cost $500 million and open in 2016, the project faced numerous construction delays, including roof and drainage issues. AstraZeneca also changed contractors along the way, although that was in part the result of a transition from exterior construction to fitting out interior spaces and scientific equipment.
The new center also should help AstraZeneca achieve its goals of zero net carbon emissions from its operations by 2025, deriving energy from geothermal sources and minimizing energy consumption through the use of natural daylight, ventilation and insulation.