AstraZeneca Shuffles, Eliminates Del. R&D Jobs

March 4, 2010

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC said Tuesday that it is reorganizing its global research and development operations and eliminating about 1,800 R&D jobs as part of a previously announced cost-cutting plan.

About 550 jobs will be eliminated at AstraZeneca's U.S. headquarters in Delaware as it moves primary research and development elsewhere, the London-based company said.

AstraZeneca also said it will close research sites in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and that about 3,500 R&D jobs will be affected as part of a plan announced in January to cut 8,000 jobs, or 12 percent of its work force, by 2014.

The termination of psychiatric laboratory research in Delaware represents about one-third of the company's R&D work force in the state, where future R&D efforts will focus on shepherding drugs through clinical trials and regulatory approval.

AstraZeneca said its facilities in Boston will see some growth as employees transfer from other sites.

"Given that the company is closing entire facilities around the world, we are thankful that AstraZeneca remains one of our state's largest employers," said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. "Their commitment to making Delaware their North American center for clinical excellence is a bright spot here. I am encouraged and hopeful that this new focus on making Delaware a clinical hub for their products will put people back to work."

Shares of AstraZeneca rose 44 cents to $44.43 in afternoon trading Tuesday.

AstraZeneca currently has 17 principal R&D sites in eight countries.

While continuing research on cancer and infection drugs and therapies for cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, inflammatory and neurological conditions, AstraZeneca said it will cease disease-specific research on drugs to treat thrombosis, acid reflux disease, ovarian and bladder cancers, systemic scleroderma, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and hepatitis C. It also said it end vaccine research other than for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.

The changes will result in the closure of the Charnwood research site in Leicestershire, England, and a smaller facility in Cambridge. Employment at Alderley Park, the company's largest R&D site in the U.K., will increase as employees transfer from elsewhere, the company said.

AstraZeneca said it also is looking to sell its London-based Arrow Therapeutics business, and that pharmaceutical development work at its Avlon facility near Bristol will cease, with some roles transferring to other sites in the U.K.

In Sweden, AstraZeneca will close its research site in Lund and boost the work force at its Molndal facility to accommodate activities to be transferred from the Lund and Charnwood sites.

"We have made real strides in improving our efficiency in recent years, but there is a continuing need to adapt our organization in anticipation of future challenges," Executive Vice President of Development Anders Ekblom said in a prepared statement.

"I am also acutely aware that these proposed changes will have a significant impact on our people, and we are committed to providing support to them," he added.