AstraZeneca (AZ) said it will close its Avishkar research and development site in Bangalore later this year—idling all 168 staffers based there—as part of its global R&D restructuring announced last year.
The staffers now work there on “pharmaceutical development and drug discovery research into neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria,” AZ said in a statement. Employees will start leaving AZ “at the end of April,” with the site expected to close later this year, the company added.
“We realize this is difficult news for our research colleagues in Bangalore, and our priority is to support them over the coming months,” said Sudhir Nambiar, site head and vp, pharmaceutical development, R&D Bangalore.
The company will no longer carry out early-stage research into neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria, though it will continue to advance a Phase II investigational compound AZD5847 for tuberculosis.
AZ said it will continue to provide expertise to help advance existing third-party neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis research programs, while continuing to make its compound library in the specialties available through “open innovation” partnerships.
AZ halved its core therapy areas to three when CEO Pascal Soriot announced its restructuring in March 2013, saying the company would focus R&D efforts on cardiovascular and metabolic disease; oncology; and respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity diseases. The pharma giant hopes the moves will revive an R&D operation that has struggled in recent years to recover from several late-stage setbacks and the expected “patent cliff” expiration of several brand-name drugs through the end of this year.
At the recent JP Morgan 32nd Annual Healthcare Conference, Soriot said AZ will keep R&D spending flat through 2016.
Pharmaceutical development projects now carried out in Bangalore will either be carried out by external providers or be transferred to the company's Macclesfield site near Cambridge, U.K.—one of three global R&D centers being created by AZ. The other two are in Mölndal, Sweden, near Gothenburg, which will focus primarily on small molecules, and in Gaithersburg, MD, headquarters of the company’s MedImmune subsidiary and already the primary location for AZ biologics activities.
However, AZ will continue to operate in India, saying its commercial organization and clinical operations at the Avishkar site will move to a new location in Bangalore later this year. The company employs more than 1,200 people in sales, marketing, and manufacturing in India, and declared that it remained committed to maintaining “a significant presence” in the country.