AstraZeneca building
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Hopes of preserving world-class medical research at a north of England centre being vacated by AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical group, have received a boost after a drug discovery and development company agreed to move there.

Redx Pharma, the Liverpool group in which venture capitalist Jon Moulton has a large stake, is to create 120 science-based jobs by occupying space in laboratories at Alderley Park in Cheshire. The move is to be announced on Tuesday.

AstraZeneca announced in March that it was moving research away from Alderley Park, a site where life-saving cardiac and cancer drugs including beta blockers have been discovered, to Cambridge, to tap into its cluster of small, innovative life science companies. More than 1,000 jobs are heading south and a further 600 five miles down the road to Macclesfield.

The Alderley Park site sits within the constituency of George Osborne, and AstraZeneca’s decision was a bitter pill for the chancellor to swallow. A task force led by David Willetts, the science minister, has been charged with finding alternative uses for the site. It mimics efforts to find new uses for Pfizer’s former site at Sandwich in Kent.

Although AstraZeneca is moving its research team from Alderley Park, it continues to own and operate the site. Clive Morris, AstraZeneca’s vice-president of R&D, said the move was “an important first step in our ambition to secure a sustainable future for the site”.

“We will continue to seek further opportunities to attract other innovation-driven companies and, wherever possible, build on the existing bioscience expertise and world-class facilities available at Alderley Park,” he said.

Neil Murray, chief executive of Redx, heralded the “fresh thinking and original approach” of the group’s anti-infectives unit, which develops drugs that combat resistance to antibiotics and new medicines to tackle viral infections. These include superbugs such as MRSA, as well as conditions arising from influenza, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Redx has been helped by a £4.7m grant from the government’s Regional Growth Fund, which aims to create jobs in poorer areas.

Mr Murray said the big pharmaceutical companies were pulling out of early stage research but looking for smaller partners who could take the risk on trying new drugs.

“It is innovative and agile companies like ours that can help the industry adapt to a new model of research and development where there is more willingness to outsource some of the challenges involved in creating new proprietary medicines,” he said.

“Our methods have already uncovered commercial potential that might otherwise have been missed, and our approach helps partners to bring new medicines to market faster.”

The business is based in Liverpool, where it has a subsidiary researching cancer treatments, but has run out of lab space there.

Redx develops therapeutic remedies based on existing classes of drugs, structurally modifying them to create new proprietary medicines.

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