AstraZeneca to axe 1,600 jobs in overhaul of R&D operations

Vast majority will go from Alderley Park in Cheshire, UK and Wilmington, Delaware, US

AstraZeneca is to axe around 1,600 jobs as it overhauls its research and development operations in three major centres in the UK, the US and Sweden.

Under the plans, AstraZeneca will no longer carry out research at its Alderley Park facility in Cheshire, North-west England. The company says approximately 1,600 people will relocate from Alderley Park, with a ‘significant majority’ going to a new, purpose-built US$500m centre in Cambridge and the remainder to the nearby Macclesfield manufacturing plant or other AstraZeneca sites overseas. At least 700 non-R&D roles are expected to remain at Alderley Park.

Alderley Park has a 40-year history and has been responsible for the discovery and development of hugely important medical treatments as well as being a lead for cancer research in Europe.

AstraZeneca says it is committed to exploring all options to ensure that the facility has a successful future.

The proposals should be fully implemented by 2016.

The new centre in Cambridge will consolidate AstraZeneca’s UK-based small molecule and biologics research and development and build on its protein engineering capabilities already based in the city. Cambridge will also become AstraZeneca’s new global corporate headquarters.

The new centre in Cambridge will consolidate AstraZeneca’s UK-based small molecule and biologics research and development

AstraZeneca’s plant in Gaithersburg, Maryland, US, the site of MedImmune’s headquarters and the primary location for AstraZeneca’s biologics activities will also become home to much of the company’s US-based Global Medicines Development activities for small and large molecules and will accommodate some global marketing and US speciality care commercial functions.

The Mölndal site in Sweden will continue to be a global centre for research and development, with a primary focus on small molecules.

The three strategic sites will be supported by other AstraZeneca facilities around the world, including Boston, Massachusetts, US, which will continue to be a centre for R&D, with a primary focus on small molecules.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive, said: ‘The changes we are proposing represent an exciting and important opportunity to put science at the heart of everything we do because our long-term success depends on improving R&D productivity and achieving scientific leadership.

‘This is a major investment in the future of this company that will enable us to accelerate innovation by improving collaboration, reducing complexity and speeding up decision-making.

‘The strategic centres will also allow us to tap into important bioscience hotspots providing more of our people with easy access to leading-edge academic and industry networks, scientific talent and valuable partnering opportunities.’

This is a major investment in the future of this company that will enable us to accelerate innovation

AstraZeneca says the consolidation of its global R&D and the creation of a new headquarters will have an impact on other sites over the next three years, particularly in the UK and US.

With the exit of the Global Medicines Development group and the relocation of global marketing and US speciality care commercial roles to Gaithersburg, about 1,200 roles will leave Wilmington, Delaware, US. There will be a net increase of approximately 300 jobs in Gaithersburg.

The changes will approximately 650 jobs go in the US; while around 170 people will relocate to other AstraZeneca sites in the US or overseas.

Wilmington will remain the company’s North America commercial headquarters, with about 2,000 people at the AstraZeneca site.

The majority of corporate and global commercial roles based in London, UK are expected to move to the new centre in Cambridge with some going to other AstraZeneca sites. Following the transfer of the company’s headquarters to Cambridge, AstraZeneca’s Paddington office will close by 2016. Currently, around 350 roles are based in London.

The restructure will incur US$1.4bn in one-time restructuring charges, of which $800m are likely to be cash costs, the company says.

‘I recognise that our plans will have a significant impact on many of our people and our stakeholders at the affected sites,’ said Soriot. ‘We are fully committed to treating all our employees with respect and fairness as we navigate this important period of change.’

GMB and other unions will seek a meeting with AstraZeneca to discuss this devastating news and the business case for it

While Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA) says he is pleased that AstraZeneca has ‘seen the value of the UK as a global hub for bioscience’, the GMB and Unite trade unions are unhappy with the job cuts.

Allan Black, GMB National Officer, said: ‘This is disastrous news for the UK and for the North-West in particular. There has been salami slicing of jobs at the Alderley Park site but this is by far and away the largest slice of job losses at the site to date.

‘These are cutting edge R&D jobs that are both well paid and essential for a thriving UK economy. GMB and other unions will seek a meeting with AstraZeneca to discuss this devastating news and the business case for it.’

Unite accused AstraZeneca of creating a skills crisis in the North-West by draining the region of highly skilled research and development jobs in the middle of an economic downturn.

Unite national officer Linda McCulloch said: ‘After 40 years of success and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, we are at a loss as to why AstraZeneca is now pulling out of Alderley Park. The region desperately needs this highly skilled workforce – they make a huge contribution to the economy and to the community.’

‘Unite will be meeting with the company to demand that AstraZeneca rethinks this decision and looks at alternatives to relocation.’

David Willetts, the UK Government’s Minister for Universities & Science, added: ‘Clearly the decision to reduce R&D activity at Alderley Park is disappointing. But the government will work closely with AstraZeneca and local partners to ensure this excellent facility has a prosperous future with new opportunities for the site.’

In February 2012 AstraZeneca announced 7,300 job cuts by the end of 2014 as part of a round of cost savings.

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