AstraZeneca unveils new discovery center (DISC) in Cambridge, UK

UNITED KINGDOM – AstraZeneca, a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company has opened a billion-pound research center near the University of Cambridge hoping to build on the work in developing one of the first Covid-19 vaccines.

The research center is a 19,000 square-meter complex that will house more than 2,200 research scientists.

The pharmaceutical company now joins a cluster of businesses seeking to make Cambridge a hub for life sciences research akin to California’s Silicon Valley tech hub.

The new £1 billion facility will feature cutting-edge robotics, high-throughput screening, and Artificial intelligence-driven technology.

It will contribute to AstraZeneca’s focus on specialized and precision medicines, as well as the discovery and development of next-generation therapeutics such as nucleotide-based, gene-editing, and cell therapies.

The DISC will complement AstraZeneca’s R&D presence in over 40 countries, including strategic research centers in Sweden and the United States, as well as development facilities in China and Japan.

The Cambridge life sciences cluster entails a huge umbrella of over 600 companies that employ about 21,000 people.

Every year, the company invests more than US$9.37 billion (7 billion pounds) in R&D around the world, with the UK accounting for a sizable portion of that total.

The Centre will aid in the further development of partnerships, the development of the next generation of science leaders, and the acceleration of AstraZeneca’s industry-leading levels of productivity.

AstraZeneca collaborated with Oxford University to create one of the first COVID-19 vaccines approved by regulators in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other countries.

After promising to sell the vaccine on a non-profit basis during the pandemic, the company and its licensing partners have delivered more than 1.5 billion doses around the world.

AstraZeneca announced last week that it would begin selling the vaccine at a “modest” profit, while continuing to provide it at no cost to developing countries.

AstraZeneca also intends to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval of the vaccine.

Astra’s R&D footprint

The Company’s three strategic R&D centers include the DISC in Cambridge, Gaithersburg, Maryland in the greater Washington, D.C. region of the United States, and Gothenburg, Sweden.

Using its unique scientific capabilities, it has integrated R&D teams and accelerated decision-making processes to deliver one of the most productive pipelines in the industry.

Since 2005, AstraZeneca has nearly attained six-fold increase in the proportion of its pipeline molecules that have progressed from preclinical investigation to completion of Phase III clinical trials – from 4% to 23%.

This increase puts AstraZeneca well above the industry average success rate of 14 percent for the 2018-2020 timeframe.

Meanwhile, Boehringer Ingelheim inaugurated a state-of-the-art biologics facility last month in Vienna, Austria at a cost of US$578 million (€500 million).

The Facility boasts a total of 48 stainless-steel bioreactors at various scales, boasts a production capacity of 185,000 liters, exceeding its original planned capacity of 150,000 litres, and has created 500 new jobs.

The Large-Scale Cell Culture (LSCC) is one of the most advanced in its own league, boasting a high degree of digitalization and automation through smart technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

The plant, touted as a state-of-the-art facility is structured to allow a faster manufacturing handoff from one product to another as well as simultaneous production of various products. It allows changeovers from one product to the other within a short time.

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