AstraZeneca's key milestone: ‘topping out’ of new global R&D centre and HQ in Cambridge UK

Latest milestone since AstraZeneca moved its global HQ and strategic science hub to Cambridge, UK, where the company already has 2,000 employees

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AstraZeneca today marks a key milestone in its successful move to Cambridge, UK, with the ‘topping out’ of its new, state-of-the-art, strategic R&D centre and global corporate headquarters at the heart of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC). The Company, including its biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, has already 2,000 employees actively engaged in the city’s vibrant scientific, academic, clinical and business community. Occupation of the site will begin in stages in 2018.

The ‘topping out’ milestone represents the completion of the new building’s concrete frame, as the focus of construction work now turns to installing the roof, external glass cladding and starting the internal fit out. Today’s event is celebrated by Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca and Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President for Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit and Business Development. They are joined by Professor Duncan Maskell, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at University of Cambridge, as well as other neighbouring scientific collaboration partners and construction teams.

The building has been co-designed by the company’s scientists and world-leading architects Herzog & de Meuron with the open architecture reflecting AstraZeneca’s collaborative approach to research. Open laboratories and transparent glass walls will enable new ways of working across disciplines and with external partners, whilst a central courtyard, open to the public, will put science on full display.

The new strategic R&D site will become AstraZeneca’s largest centre globally for oncology research, as well as housing scientists focused on respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The proximity and high concentration of leading scientific organisations at the CBC, across Cambridge and the region create the ideal conditions for sharing knowledge, skills and expertise – and ultimately for pushing the boundaries of science. For example:

  • The new R&D site will house a joint research centre with the Medical Research Council, where partnering scientists will work side-by-side with AstraZeneca’s high throughput screening group.
  • AstraZeneca’s drug discovery scientists are working with Microsoft to use a cloud-based simulation that brings alive the millions of potential changes that make cancer cells multiply uncontrollably, to better understand the disease.
  • Similarly, scientists from MedImmune and Cancer Research UK are working together to discover and develop novel biologics to treat cancer. Together they have isolated a novel target associated with leukaemia and recently started an exciting project looking at the best drug combinations to treat pancreatic cancer.
  • A novel agreement is also in place that will give researchers from the University of Cambridge access to key compounds from the AstraZeneca drugs pipeline.

 AstraZeneca senior executives and key stakeholders commented as follows:

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca: “Our new global HQ and strategic R&D site designed by world-leading architects Herzog & de Meuron embodies AstraZeneca’s innovation-led transformation and I am delighted to mark today’s milestone, which signals our progress in advancing a world-class environment where science can thrive. As a long-standing investor in UK science, we believe Cambridge offers a tremendously vibrant academic and life-sciences ecosystem that can truly catalyse discovery and innovation. Together with our partners, we will push the boundaries of science to deliver innovative medicines that transform patient care around the world.” 

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice-President of AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit and Business Development: “We believe that the best way to meet today’s scientific challenges is to work in an open, transparent and collaborative way with the world’s best scientists – both inside and outside AstraZeneca – so Cambridge is the perfect home for our new strategic R&D hub. Working closely with our neighbours on the CBC, we are not only reinforcing our contribution to the thriving Cambridge scientific community but also to the UK’s life science industry.”

Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice-President of MedImmune: “Collaboration is core to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus’ mission and design, just as it is a critical part of drug discovery and development. Today’s milestone signals our progress in advancing a world-class environment where science can not only thrive, but also deliver life-changing medicines to patients.”  

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge: "We welcome AstraZeneca’s move to Cambridge, a decision that will further strengthen our existing links and undoubtedly foster new collaborations. Their scientific, research, entrepreneurial and business strengths will make a significant contribution to the Cambridge ecosystem, and in particular the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the centrepiece of the largest biotech cluster outside the United States. Their new building is a testament to the importance academic life-science centres like Cambridge play in the translation of research into innovations that solve complex healthcare challenges in the UK and around the world."

Heidi Allen MP: “The life sciences cluster in Cambridge is world leading and enables unique collaborations between the very greatest minds and organisations. AstraZeneca’s continued investment brings numerous benefits to South Cambridgeshire and is a key ingredient in these collaborations. I’m delighted the project is progressing well and look forward to seeing it open its doors!”

Daniel Zeichner MP: “I am proud that Cambridge is the beating heart of research and science in the UK today. AstraZeneca’s investment in Cambridge makes a significant contribution to our growing local economy and the openness of the new facility will allow the public to experience our city’s scientific developments too.”

Pierre de Meuron, Herzog & de Meuron: “I would like to congratulate AstraZeneca along with the design and construction teams, on successfully reaching the Topping Out milestone of the project. We have assessed the achievements in the construction very highly up to now, and are confident that what remains ahead of us will be done with passion from all parties, to successfully complete this project. The architecture supports AZ’s ambition to be a key point of exchange and collaboration in the CBC community, and makes it visible with a porous building that is accessible from three different sides. The new site will bring AstraZeneca scientists together with those from its global biologics R&D arm, MedImmune, working side-by-side under one roof.”

Skanska: “We work with AstraZeneca in a number of countries, creating world-class healthcare facilities. This global HQ is our latest project together. The project has created hundreds of local jobs and work for the supply chain in the region. To date, we have completed over 2 million man hours on the build. Topping out is an important milestone in the process – a traditional celebration in construction that signifies the building has reached full height.”

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