Prince Charles gives a speech at AstraZeneca's Discovery Centre (DISC) unveiling, with Pascal Soriot

Eight years and $1.3B lat­er, As­traZeneca fi­nal­ly un­veils Cam­bridge R&D palace

One of the biggest projects that Pas­cal So­ri­ot ini­ti­at­ed, all the way back in 2013, af­ter he first took over as As­traZeneca’s CEO is fi­nal­ly com­plete.

Su­san Gal­braith

As­traZeneca is for­mal­ly un­veil­ing its $1.34 bil­lion (£1 bil­lion) R&D cam­pus in Cam­bridge, UK, a shiny new fa­cil­i­ty span­ning 19,000 square me­ters in the south­ern part of the city. On top of 2,200 re­search sci­en­tists, it will al­so host a suite of ro­bot­ics, high-through­put screen­ing and AI-dri­ven tech­nol­o­gy.

“I think it’s a very bold state­ment that we’ve got the new build­ing,” Su­san Gal­braith, EVP of on­col­o­gy R&D, said in a video, “be­cause it’s ba­si­cal­ly say­ing that R&D is the fu­ture of the com­pa­ny, and that we want to in­vest in hav­ing the best fa­cil­i­ties pos­si­ble for peo­ple to do in­no­v­a­tive sci­ence. So that it­self I think is a state­ment of in­tent for what we want the fu­ture of the com­pa­ny to be.”

From pre­ci­sion med­i­cines to next-gen treat­ments such as nu­cleotide-based, gene-edit­ing and cell ther­a­pies, the com­pa­ny has high hopes for the site, which it’s call­ing the Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre (DISC).

When As­traZeneca first an­nounced plans to build the new glob­al R&D hub and cor­po­rate head­quar­ters, the goal was to be ready for move-in by 2016 on a bud­get of $500 mil­lion. So­ri­ot’s vi­sion was for the team to be­come an in­te­gral part of the lo­cal ecosys­tem in Cam­bridge, “a world-renowned bio­science hotspot that ri­vals the likes of San Fran­cis­co and Boston.”

As­traZeneca’s new R&D cen­ter in Cam­bridge, UK (Hufton + Crow)

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

In the end, it was just like de­vel­op­ing a new drug. Fraught with high costs, dis­ap­point­ing set­backs and the source of bit­ter crit­i­cism.

Andy Williams

But the de­lays didn’t stop As­traZeneca from ink­ing over 200 col­lab­o­ra­tions in the re­gion, in­clud­ing 130-plus with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, on top of more than 2,000 around the world, ac­cord­ing to Andy Williams, VP of Cam­bridge pro­gram and strat­e­gy. And the open-floor de­sign of the new build­ing will hope­ful­ly deep­en these ties while fos­ter­ing more.

The grand open­ing on Tues­day fea­tures Prince Charles as the guest of hon­or.

Lo­cat­ed with­in the Cam­bridge Bio­med­ical Cam­pus, As­traZeneca is now neigh­bors with mul­ti­ple re­search hos­pi­tals as well as Ab­cam, the re­search tool provider.

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His­toric drug pric­ing re­forms pass; Pfiz­er ac­quires GBT; The long search for non-opi­oid pain drugs; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

The Endpoints Weekly has officially crossed the 60,000 mark on subscribers — thanks to all of your support. As the editorial team grows, we’ve been able to do a lot more, with many of those on display this week. Be sure to check out Lei Lei Wu’s deep dive on pain R&D. If you missed it, you may also rewatch her companion panel here.

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Gold for adults, sil­ver for in­fants: Pfiz­er's Pre­vnar 2.0 head­ed to FDA months af­ter Mer­ck­'s green light

Pfizer was first to the finish line for the next-gen pneumococcal vaccine in adults, but Merck beat its rival with a jab for children in June.

Now, two months after Merck’s 15-valent Vaxneuvance won the FDA stamp of approval for kids, Pfizer is out with some late-stage data on its 20-valent shot for infants.

Known as Prevnar 20 for adults, Pfizer’s 20vPnC will head to the FDA by the end of this year for an approval request in infants, the Big Pharma said Friday morning. Discussions with the FDA will occur first and more late-stage pediatric trials are expected to read out soon, informing the regulatory pathway in other countries and regions.

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Seagen interim CEO Roger Dansey and Daiichi Sankyo CEO Sunao Manabe

Paving the way for Mer­ck­'s buy­out, Seagen los­es ar­bi­tra­tion dis­pute with Dai­ichi over ADC tech

As Seagen awaits a final buyout offer from Merck that could be in the territory of $40 billion, Seagen revealed Friday afternoon that it lost an arbitration dispute with Daiichi Sankyo relating to the companies’ 2008 collaboration around the use of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology.

But that loss likely won’t matter much when it comes to Merck’s deal.

After breaking off its pact with Daiichi in mid-2015, the two companies battled over “linker” tech — a chemical bridge between an ADC’s antibody component and the cytotoxic payload — that Seagen claims Daiichi would improve upon and implement in its current generation of ADCs.

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Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen­ate Fi­nance chair con­tin­ues his in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to phar­ma tax­es with re­quests for Am­gen

Amgen is the latest pharma company to appear on the radar of Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is investigating the way pharma companies are using subsidiaries in low- or zero-tax countries to lower their tax bills.

Like its peers Merck, AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyden notes how Amgen uses its Puerto Rico operations to consistently pay tax rates that are substantially lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%, with an effective tax rate of 10.7% in 2020 and 12.1% in 2021.

FDA ap­proves sec­ond in­di­ca­tion for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi's En­her­tu in less than a week

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu scored its second approval in less than a week, this time for a subset of lung cancer patients.

Enhertu received accelerated approval on Thursday to treat adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have activating HER2 (ERBB2) mutations, and who have already received a prior systemic therapy.

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J&J to re­move talc prod­ucts from shelves world­wide, re­plac­ing with corn­starch-based port­fo­lio

After controversially spinning out its talc liabilities and filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to settle 38,000 lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson is now changing up the formula for its baby powder products.

J&J is beginning the transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio, the pharma giant announced on Thursday — just months after a federal judge ruled in favor of its “Texas two-step” bankruptcy to settle allegations that its talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer. An appeals court has since agreed to revisit that case.

CSL is gathering its four business units under a unified brand identity strategy (Credit: CSL company site)

CSL brings Se­qirus, Vi­for un­der par­ent um­brel­la brand in iden­ti­ty re­vamp

CSL is gathering its brands under the family name umbrella, renaming its vaccine and newly acquired nephrology specialty businesses with the parent initials.

CSL Seqirus and CSL Vifor join CSL Plasma and CSL Behring as the four now uniformly branded business units of the global biopharma. The Seqirus vaccine division was formed in 2015 with the combination of bioCSL and its purchase of Novartis’ flu vaccine business. CSL picked up Vifor Pharma late last year in an $11.7 billion deal for the nephrology, iron deficiency and cardio-renal drug developer.

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No­var­tis re­ports two pa­tient deaths af­ter treat­ment with Zol­gens­ma

Two children with spinal muscular atrophy have died after receiving Novartis’ Zolgensma, a gene therapy designed as a one-time treatment for the rare fatal disease.

The deaths, which resulted from acute liver failure, occurred in Russia and Kazakhstan, Novartis confirmed in a statement to Endpoints News. Having notified health authorities across all the markets where Zolgensma is available, it will update the drug label “to specify that fatal acute liver failure has been reported,” a spokesperson wrote.

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