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AstraZeneca opens new R&D base in Cambridge, England

Center will place 2,200 scientists in the heart of the city’s biotech hub

by Alex Scott
November 26, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 43

A photo of AstraZeneca's new research center in Cambridge, England.
Credit: Hufton & Crow
AstraZeneca’s new R&D headquarters in Cambridge, England

Still riding high from its success in providing millions of vaccines against COVID-19, AstraZeneca has notched another major milestone with the official opening of its new R&D headquarters in Cambridge, England.

Named the Discovery Centre, the ring-shaped glass-and-concrete building contains 16 massive labs—totaling 19,000 m2 of lab space, enough to accommodate over 2,200 scientists. AstraZeneca will move 2,100 of its UK-based scientists, most of whom are currently scattered around Cambridge, into the center next year.

The center cost $1.3 billion to build. When fully outfitted, it will feature advanced robotics, high-throughput screening, and artificial intelligence technologies to support the development of next-generation medicines, including those based on nucleotides, antibody-drug conjugates, and cell therapies. Its design features include ground-source heat pumps and rainwater harvesting, which the company claims will make it the world’s most sustainable drug R&D center.

The center’s location on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus means AstraZeneca scientists will be well placed to collaborate with many people who work for other biotech and drug firms in Cambridge, says Steve Rees, the company’s vice president of discovery biology.

The Discovery Centre is within a 5 min walk of other research centers, Rees says, including Royal Papworth Hospital, the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cancer Research UK, and the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre. The new installation is designed “to be open and porous” to encourage interactions with this scientific community, he adds.

The center’s central Cambridge location is a far cry from the firm’s former R&D base in the countryside near Cheshire, England. AstraZeneca sold that site, known as Alderley Park, in 2014.

In a nod to the molecular biologist Francis Crick, who played a crucial role in deciphering the helical structure of DNA while at the University of Cambridge, the new R&D center’s address is Number 1 Crick Avenue.



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