550 jobs will go at Alderley Park itself, a further 150 elsewhere in the UK. The centre is in George Osborne’s Tatton constituency, so coming as it does on the eve of the budget the announcement is quite an embarrassment for the chancellor. It’s also only five months since he helped to secure a £5m grant to ‘develop’ the centre.
Around half of those currently employed at Alderley will be offered new jobs in a new £330m centre in Cambridge. Altogether some 1,000 jobs are said to be moving south from the Cheshire escarpment to the fens. RnD will cease at Alderley Park – a world centre for cancer treatment research – but 700 support jobs will remain on the site.
AZ’s global RnD will thus be concentrated in 3 sites globally – Cambridge, Gaithersberg in the US and Molndal in Sweden. The move suggests that the firm is shifting its attention from ‘traditional’ drug development to new areas of research – it already has a biologistics unit in Cambridge and the region is a global hub for the biosciences.
The plans are slated to cost some £925m and generate annual savings of £125m. The firm’s 2012 profits were down 38% to £4.9bn, and patent expiries are expected to continue to hit results.
Chief executive Pascal Soriot said of the news ‘This is a major investment in the future of this company. The strategic centres will 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.’
All the same, it doesn’t look good for the reputation of the UK pharma business. It’s only two years since Pfizer pulled the plug on its Sandwich research hub, and here we are with another major British drug research centre closing down…