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AstraZeneca is to cease research into several diseases that have generated its largest selling drugs, including medicines for schizophrenia and heartburn.
The Anglo-Swedish group said it would stop developing new treatments for 10 different diseases, marking the end of projects to find successors to blockbusters such as Nexium and Seroquel.
The action follows a pledge to boost productivity as part of a restructuring of AstraZeneca’s research and development division revealed last month, which will cut 3,500 scientists and technical staff worldwide by 2014.
The decision mirrors a similar move revealed this year by GlaxoSmithKline, its UK rival, which has also pledged new approaches to innovation and pared back research activities, including shutting down work on treatments for depression.
It reflects broader efforts by large pharmaceutical groups to boost innovation, cut costs and increase the likelihood of success of the development of new drugs for which healthcare systems and insurers will pay.
Anders Ekbom, executive vice-president of development, said: “We have made strides in improving our efficiency in recent years, but there is a need to adapt in anticipation of future challenges.”
The company will close research at peripheral sites such as Charnwood and Avlon in the UK, Lund in Sweden and Wilmington in the US, and bring staff together at research centres in Alderley Park in the UK and Molndal in Sweden.
It plans to reorganise research and development into smaller “iMeds” or research units designed to strengthen accountability and re-create a more entrepreneurial atmosphere.
AstraZeneca said it would maintain all of its seven therapy areas, which cover cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, oncology, respiratory, inflammation, neuroscience and infection.
But it will stop further drug development work into diseases within these categories, including thrombosis, acid reflux, ovarian and bladder cancers, systemic scleroderma, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, hepatitis C and vaccines other than respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.
It will also sell Arrow Therapeutics in the UK.
Its latest restructuring estimates a further 8,000 job losses on top of 4,000 cut since 2007