AstraZeneca opens new advanced therapeutics R&D facility in Cambridge

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/metamorworks
© GettyImages/metamorworks

Related tags: nucleotide, Gene editing, Cell therapies, Astrazeneca

AstraZeneca has built a new R&D facility - The Discovery Centre (DISC) - in Cambridge in the UK.

The pharma giant said the new £1bn (US$1.3bn) research and development center will include advanced robotics, high-throughput screening and AI-driven technology.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told BioPharma-Reporter that the facility aims to pioneer a faster and more agile approach to developing medicines, in order to fully deliver patient-centered precision medicine and elevate the medical journey away from treatment and eventually towards cure. 

AZ DISC
AZ's new DISC facility, Cambridge, UK © AstraZeneca

Housing 2,200 research scientists, the facility will support the next generation of therapeutics, including genomic and cell therapies.

"The DISC will allow the company to deliver on its ambitions in genomic sequencing, helping it to identify even more rare variants of disease, to uncover new targets, new disease insights and ultimately expand the therapeutic world that is available to us. So far, AstraZeneca has analyzed over five petabytes of data," ​added the representative. 

The company is exploring a number of nucleotide-based modalities from oligonucleotides and RNA-based therapies to using CRISPR/Cas9 as a potential therapeutic tool. It also involved in a number of key collaborative alliances that enable it to use different platforms and approaches while also continuing to invest in its own capabilities build.

AstraZeneca invests more than $7bn in R&D globally each year, with the DISC adding to its capabilities in that regard; it also has research centers in Sweden and the US, as well as development facilities in China and Japan. 

Life sciences hub

The life sciences cluster in Cambridge is the most productive in Europe, noted AstraZeneca. It includes more than 400 companies, employing around 20,000 people and contributing almost £3bn annually ​to the UK economy. The city has more than doubled its turnover growth rate over the past five years in life sciences and has more patent applications​than anywhere else in the UK, it added.

Located within the Cambridge Biomedical Campus​, the DISC’s 19,000m2 laboratories are close to a number of biotech companies, hospitals, other research institutions including the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine, the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cancer Research UK and the Royal Papworth and Addenbrooke’s Hospitals, among others.

Sustainability goals

Beyond the new facility’s extensive scientific capabilities, AstraZeneca reported that its disc-like structure is equipped with 174 boreholes to provide natural geothermal energy; four ‘hybrid cooling towers’ and a ground source heat pump that will save enough energy to power 2,500 homes.

Low-energy ventilation and high levels of insulation also help ensure the efficiency of the building, along with the ‘saw-tooth’ roof design which minimizes energy use by flooding the interior with natural daylight.

AZ has committed to a goal of zero carbon emissions from its operations across the world by 2025, and for its entire value chain to be carbon negative by 2030.

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