UK drug giant AstraZeneca has revealed plans to shed at least 300 jobs at its R&D facility at Alderley Park, which is currently home to over 4,500 of its employees.

The company was not able to say exactly how many positions would go, but confirmed that the number is expected to overshoot the 300-mark, around 60 more than expected by unions, according to the Manchester Evening News.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca told PharmaTimes UK News that the casualties will fall primarily in the respiration and inflammation R&D areas, but that smaller numbers are also being shed in the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal segments.

“The move should be seen in the global context of reshaping R&D”, the spokesman stressed, and added that, worldwide, the company is actually increasing its R&D investment under plans to hone its focus on areas with the greatest commercial potential and areas of unmet medical need.

Following a strategic review of all therapeutic areas, AstraZeneca has decided to cut down its small molecule efforts in respiratory, inflammatory disease and cancer. “In particular, we will stop discovery activities in osteoarthritis disease modification and move out of cancer cell cycle blockers as a therapeutic target,” the group noted earlier this year.

2007 drop in profit
The announcement came as the company reported announced a 4% drop in operating profit for 2007 to $8.1 billion, primarily because of extraordinary charges related to its purchase of MedImmune substantially eating into earnings. Sales were up 7% (at constant exchange rates) at $30 billion.

In February 2007, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker unveiled a three-year restructuring programme involving a staff cull of around 3,000, but, later that year the group more than doubled the expected toll to around 7,600, in a bid to save $900 million by 2010.