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AstraZeneca's CEO Pascal Soriot in pledge to patients as £500m Cambridge site is topped out


By Paul Brackley


AstraZenecas topping-out ceremony at Cambridge Biomedical Campus - Mene Pangalos, Pascal Soriot, Anders Danielsson, and Duncan Maskell. Picture: Keith Heppell
AstraZenecas topping-out ceremony at Cambridge Biomedical Campus - Mene Pangalos, Pascal Soriot, Anders Danielsson, and Duncan Maskell. Picture: Keith Heppell

AstraZeneca's chief executive officer said patient care would be transformed thanks to the firm's new Cambridge site, which reached a key milestone today.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca before the topping-out ceremony, Picture: Keith Heppell
Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca before the topping-out ceremony, Picture: Keith Heppell

In a topping-out ceremony, concrete was flattened at the top of the building by senior executives and a crane lowered a fir tree on to it for good luck.

Some two million hours have been completed on the company’s £500million global corporate headquarters and research and development centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus by contractor Skanska.

The topping-out marks the completion of the building’s concrete frame and the focus now switches to installing the roof, external glass cladding and the internal fit-out.

The 2,000 employees at AstraZeneca and its biologics research and development arm MedImmune will begin moving in next year in stages.

Duncan Maskell, Anders Danielsson, Pascal Soriot and Mene Pangalos at the AstraZeneca topping-out ceremony. Picture: Keith Heppell
Duncan Maskell, Anders Danielsson, Pascal Soriot and Mene Pangalos at the AstraZeneca topping-out ceremony. Picture: Keith Heppell

The site will become AstraZeneca’s largest centre for cancer research and will also be home to scientists tackling respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Chief executive officer Pascal Soriot said: “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.”

Hundreds attended the AstraZeneca topping-out ceremony
Hundreds attended the AstraZeneca topping-out ceremony

A key driver for the firm’s decision to move to Cambridge was the opportunity to work with other scientists on the campus and across the region’s life sciences cluster.

AstraZeneca has confirmed that:

• The new R&D site will house a joint research centre with the Medical Research Council, first announced in 2014, where scientists will work side-by-side with AstraZeneca’s screening group

• Its 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, with the aim of better understanding the disease.

Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus

• Scientists from MedImmune and Cancer Research UK are working together to discover and develop novel biologics to treat cancer. They are collaborating on 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.

Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president of AstraZeneca’s innovative medicines and early development biotech unit and business development, said: “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.”

A vision of AstraZenecas new global HQ and R&D centre at Cambridge Biomedical Campus
A vision of AstraZenecas new global HQ and R&D centre at Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Bahija Jallal, executive vice-president of MedImmune, added: “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.”

Professor Duncan Maskell, senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cambridge, joined the 800-strong audience at the site.

AstraZeneca scientists worked with architects at Herzog & de Meuron on the design.

Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus - view from Robinson Way
Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus - view from Robinson Way

The open architecture is said to reflect AstraZeneca’s collaborative approach to research.

Open laboratories and glass walls mark transparent ways of working across disciplines and with external partners and, intriguingly, a central courtyard will be open to the public and will put science on display.

The project has won the Considerate Construction Scheme’s gold award.

Pierre de Meuron, of Herzog & de Meuron, said: “I would like to congratulate AstraZeneca along with the design and construction teams, on successfully reaching the topping out milestone of the project.

Concept drawing of second floor lab at AstraZeneca in Cambridge
Concept drawing of second floor lab at AstraZeneca in Cambridge

“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.”

A spokesman for Skanska added: “We work with AstraZeneca in a number of countries, creating world-class healthcare facilities. This global HQ is our latest project together.

AstraZeneca Cambridge Biomedical Campus, topping out, from left Duncan Maskell, Anders Danielsson, Pascal Soriot, and Mene Pangalos . Picture: Keith Heppell
AstraZeneca Cambridge Biomedical Campus, topping out, from left Duncan Maskell, Anders Danielsson, Pascal Soriot, and Mene Pangalos . Picture: Keith Heppell

“The project has created hundreds of local jobs and work for the supply chain in the region. To date, we have completed over two 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.”

• Read more coverage in the Cambridge Independent, out on Wednesday April 26.

Masterplan drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Masterplan drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Quotes of the day

• Prof 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.”

Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus

• Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge

“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.”

Concept drawing of AstraZeneca courtyard at Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Concept drawing of AstraZeneca courtyard at Cambridge Biomedical Campus

• Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire

“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!”

• Pierre de Meuron, of architects 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.”

Roman pot found in a 4th century grave during AstraZeneca excavation work on Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Roman pot found in a 4th century grave during AstraZeneca excavation work on Cambridge Biomedical Campus

• A spokesman for contractor 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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