WALTHAM, Mass.—AstraZeneca officially began construction in early May on a $100 million research and development expansion at the company's Waltham-based R&D Boston facility, which will accommodate as many as 100 additional researchers who will join the more than 450 existing employees focused on discovering treatments for infectious diseases and cancer.
"This is the right investment at the right time, as hospital-acquired infectious diseases—also known as superbugs—are on the rise and cancer remains the third leading killer in the world," said Tony Zook, president and CEO of AstraZeneca U.S., in announcing the groundbreaking. "This expansion is a strategic global decision to increase our capabilities at R&D Boston because Massachusetts gives us access to some of the leading scientific talent, potential partners and collaborators, and emerging science in a worldwide biotechnology hub."
"Infectious disease is becoming more prevalent and problematic to patients and healthcare providers, placing a heavy burden on our healthcare systems," adds AstraZeneca spokesperson Laura King. World Health Organization figures indicate that 41 percent of the global disease burden is due to infection, she notes, and outside the European Union and United States, the infectious disease burden is greater than the total of all other therapy areas combined.
"Meanwhile, there has been a worldwide decline in the delivery of new antibiotics," she says. "Only 10 new antibacterials have been introduced since 1998, of which two were truly novel. Resistance to currently available antibacterials continues to increase and represents a clear danger to patients and public health globally. AstraZeneca is committed to providing much needed new antibacterial agents for worldwide use."
AstraZeneca first established a research presence in the Boston area in 1995, ahead of many competitors, King notes, and the company first moved to its state-of-the-art research facility in 2000, which it expanded in 2003. Late last year, the company reshaped its disease area focus to maximize long-term competitiveness, withdrawing from the areas of hypertension, functional gastrointestinal disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, addiction, insomnia and stroke—and to concentrate on diabetes and obesity, infection, inhalation projects, analgesia and oncology.
R&D Boston's research focus is a key part of that new strategy. Infection is one of the company's key growth areas, King says, and oncology continues to be a high research priority—and the expansion of the Waltham facility adds additional muscle to 16 research and development facilities located in eight countries. Construction of the 132,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to conclude by mid-2009. Upon completion, the total size of the AstraZeneca research facility will be 382,000 square feet.
"AstraZeneca wants to be world class in our chosen therapeutic areas and we believe that this can be achieved by having a stronger presence in the Boston area, which has a tremendous pool of resources, including some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world," King says. "As such, R&D Boston is highly regarded from within the company as a priority R&D site. This investment will provide additional resources for our scientists who are tackling more complex diseases than ever before."