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AstraZeneca to shut R&D centre in Bangalore

168 research jobs at stake; had during 2012 shed some R&D jobs

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AstraZeneca, the global pharmaceutical major,  said that it will close its research and development site in Bangalore later this year.  

The ‘Avishkar R&D Site’, employing 168 researchers, was one of the critical centres of and was involved in the pharmaceutical development and drug discovery research into neglected tropical disease, (TB) and malaria.

“This decision is part of AstraZeneca’s broader global business strategy to simplify its research and development footprint and focus resources on three core therapy areas - oncology, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity,” a statement from AstraZeneca said.

AstraZeneca started its India  R&D operations during 1984 and was operational at the current location since 2003 and its peak strength was 180 researchers.

Pharmaceutical development projects currently carried out at the India site will be transferred either to the company’s Macclesfield site in the United Kingdom, or be carried out by external providers.  

The Pharmaceutical Development group in Bangalore supported early- to mid-stage clinical development and late-stage life-cycle management across AstraZeneca’s core therapy areas.

The company will no longer carry out early stage research into neglected tropical diseases, TB and malaria.

However, AstraZeneca will continue to progress AZD5847, its phase II programme for TB. In addition, the company’s compound library will continue to be available through open innovation partnerships and AstraZeneca will continue to help advance existing third-party neglected tropical diseases, and TB research programmes for the benefit of patients.

Employees affected by the changes will start to leave the company at the end of April and the site is expected to close later this year.

AstraZeneca’s India commercial organisation and the clinical operations, also based at the Avishkar site, will move to a new location in Bangalore later this year.  

AstraZeneca employs more than 1200 people in sales, marketing and manufacturing in India and remains committed to maintaining a significant presence in the country and continuing to deliver innovative medicines to improve the lives of patients. Sudhir Nambiar, site head and Vice President, Pharmaceutical Development, R&D Bangalore said: “We realise this is difficult news for our research colleagues in Bangalore and our priority is to support them over the coming months. We have not taken this decision lightly and acknowledge the excellent work carried out by our people in Bangalore. These changes reflect the company’s strategic focus on investing in our core therapy areas and simplifying our R&D footprint.”

Dr T S Balganesh, a distinguished scientist, was one of the key catalysts of this centre.  Balganesh came on board during 1987 as Scientist (Project Leader) Diarrhoeal diseases and later grew in strength to be the VP - Discovery, R&D Bangalore and Executive Director of the centre between 2005-11 before moving on to join Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation (C-MMACS), under the Government of India.

During 2012, AstraZeneca had said that around 15 scientists were affected due to the global right-sizing which was being rolled out across its global operations.

Senior R&D professionals in the sector indicated that this move by AstraZeneca to shut down the centre in Bangalore may be indicative of the reflection of the tough situation which pharmaceutical industry is going through globally. “Many of them are aligning with biotechnology companies to fuel the drug pipeline and this will have more momentum,” a senior R&D professional noted.

AstraZeneca further noted that the decision to shut the Bangalore centre is in no way a reflection on the excellent work or the performance of the scientists and other experts at the site.  

“Bangalore is renowned for its energy, high quality and productivity, and employees should be deeply proud of what they have accomplished. This decision is in no way related to any local issues or changes to the regulatory environment or to the performance of our R&D teams in India, which has been of high quality,” AstraZeneca noted.

* AstraZeneca opened R&D operations during 1984

* The site will be shut later this year

* 168 research jobs at stake

* Facility worked extensively on TB & malaria

* The compound library will continue to be made available through open innovation partnerships

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