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Two new AstraZeneca laboratories opened in UK

Published on 29/09/06 at 01:21pm

AstraZeneca has officially opened two major research laboratories in the UK, which it says demonstrates its commitment to R&D in Britain.

The new facilities represent the largest single UK investment to date by the company, with a 60 million Cancer Research Area building opened at Alderley Park in Cheshire and a new Biology building, costing 16 million at its research site in Charnwood in  Leicestershire.

AstraZeneca's new Cancer Research Area incorporates state of the art laboratories for 265 scientists, including bioscientists, chemists, specialists involved in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) as well as mass spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance. The company says research carried out here will contribute to its strategic goal to increase CD (candidate drug) output.

The investment builds upon AstraZeneca's heritage in oncology, which includes the discovery and development of landmark drugs such as the discovery and development of breast cancer drugs Nolvadex (tamoxifen)  and  Arimidex.

The new Biology building will provide capacity for up to 75 scientists, accommodating specialist laboratory facilities and equipment, enabling more enhanced integration of safety assessment with discovery sciences, across a range of several disease areas.

Chief executive David Brennan commented: "Although AstraZeneca is a global company, the UK is a crucial base for two major R&D sites, at which we continue to invest in British science. Globally, we spend around $14 (7.4) million each working day on R&D, across 11 R&D centres in seven countries. Our goal is to get life-changing medicines to patients as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.

"Alderley Park is the largest facility within AstraZeneca's worldwide R&D network and our oncology scientists have been responsible for significant advances in cancer therapy. This has resulted in huge benefits for patients throughout the world, as well as growth for the business."

John Patterson, AstraZeneca's Executive Director, Development, added: "Innovation is the life-blood of the R&D based pharmaceutical industry. Our new facilities will enable highly-qualified scientists to work in an integrated way, attracting and retaining talented individuals to careers in a challenging business that not only delivers benefits to patients, but also to the UK and global economies."

Patterson added that using leading edge science at the sites would help it keep at the forefront of research.

The company has suffered a number of serious R&D setbacks over the last two years, including the late-stage failure of blood clot treatment Exanta and lung cancer drug Iressa.

In the Pipeline

AstraZeneca highlighted some of the most promising drug candidates in its pipeline. These include ZD6474 a novel, orally active, anti-cancer agent that inhibits two key signalling cancer pathways through VEGF and EGF, thus blocking tumour blood vessel development and tumour cell growth.

The drug is in phase III development for non-small cell lung cancer and recently gained fast track and orphan drug status from the FDA for phase II investigation of medullary thyroid cancer.

In phase II, AZD2171, is a new treatment for lung and other cancers that selectively blocks VEGF signalling. Another is ZD4054, an endothelin antagonist which is being studied in hormone-resistant prostate cancer and has been granted fast track status by the FDA.

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