AstraZeneca is to close its environmental laboratory in Devon, UK, where 71 staff are employed.

The lab, which is in the town of Brixham, provides specialist services to assess the impact of pharmaceuticals and chemicals used by a range of industries on the environment. However, AstraZeneca notes that the work undertaken there "is outside the organisation's strategic focus of developing innovative new medicines" and is planning to cease operations by the end of March 2014.

The services currently provided on the site will be sourced from third parties, the drugmaker states, adding that it remains committed to "sustaining the highest environmental standards". Tony Broughton, head of UK operations at AstraZeneca said: "We realise that this is difficult news for our employees at Brixham and our priority is to support them over the coming months".

He acknowledged "the excellent work carried out by our people at the laboratory over its history", but added that operating it "for the benefit of AstraZeneca and customers across a range of industries is not a core part of our strategy". Mr Broughton went on to say that "we are exploring a range of options for the future of the site and, if possible, would like to see the laboratory remain in use for scientific purposes".