The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker unveiled plans to cease R&D activities at its lab in Alderley Park in Cheshire in the UK and relocate staff to either a new $500m (€386m) facility in Cambridge, a manufacturing plant in Macclesfield or ‘other AstraZeneca sites overseas.’
The Macclesfield plant – which currently employs around 2,500 staff – produces the cancer drug Zoladex and also houses some of AstraZeneca’s packing, distribution and IT operations.
The site is also home to a £63m drug development lab which – while no firm plans have been announced – is likely to be the unit that absorbs some of the employees from the Alderley Park facility.
Additionally, Astrazeneca’s unit in Paddington in London will close by 2016 with the majority of corporate and global commercial roles also relocating to the Cambridge site.
In the US, the firm’s medicines development group will move from Wilmington, Delaware to a site in Gaithersburg, Maryland which – coupled with the relocation of global marketing and specialty care commercial operations - will result in the loss of 650 jobs in North America.
AstraZeneca said that the restructuring – which will reduce the firm’s headcount by 1,600 and see it incur a charge of $1.4bn – is designed to improve productivity, reduce complexity and eliminate unnecessary cost.
AstraZeneca’s plan met with mixed reaction with some observers suggesting that it reflects the growing influence the firm’s MedImmune unit has on its thinning product pipeline.
Eric Le Berrigaud, an analyst at Bryan Garnier & Co told Bloomberg that: “The initial impressions -- that MedImmune people are gaining power within the company, that Astra wants to grow bigger in biologics --seem to be confirmed.”
If accurate this interpretation could have implications for Chinese contract research organisation (CRO) Wuxi AppTec, which formed a autoimmune disease focused drug development joint venture with the AstraZeneca unit late last year.
Another CRO – US-based Charles River Labs – is also likely to be keeping a close eye on developments given that it was recently announced that AstraZeneca had selected it as a strategic partner for drug R&D, formalizing a pre-exiting relationship.