Green light to AstraZeneca’s new home

Cambridge City Council has eventually conceded construction permission to AstraZeneca for its future Global Research and Development (R&D) Centre and Corporate Headquarters building. In March 2013, the international biopharmaceutical company announced the £330 million plan and expects to begin the works in the spring.

The new site, located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, will occupy nearly 644,000 square feet, making it AstraZeneca’s largest centre for oncology research; in addition to accommodating scientists involved in the development of treatments for other conditions, including cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. In total, plans for the site anticipate around 2,000 employees by the end of 2016. The low energy project, designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, includes ‘green roofs’  and a central courtyard open to the public; a characteristic that honours the city’s historical colleges.

Since the end of 2014, the plan had faced the opposition of city residents, animal rights campaigners and environmentalists. In January and February, the campaign group CAP (Cambridge against AstraZeneca Planning) organised protests and collected almost 6,000 signatures against the construction of the building through an online petition at The group’s main objection has to do with the inclusion of a rodent facility that AstraZeneca announces as part of the new centre to support early stage cancer research. However, the company argues that non-animal methods such as cell culture, computer modelling and high-throughput screening using robots are preferred where possible, but regulators still require experiments with animals before approving tests in humans.

AstraZeneca has more than 200 active collaborations with universities, charities and funding organisations, and in 2011, contributed £3.8 billion total GVA (Gross Value Added) to the UK economy. At the company’s 7 sites across the UK, 6,700 people are currently employed. A small representation of this staff has already been reallocated to R&D parks in Cambridge, contributing to the development of secured relationships with the growing scientific community in the city.

By Andrea Rodríguez-Bárzano


  1. AstraZeneca (2015). Cambridge. Available from:
  2. AstraZeneca (2014). AstraZeneca reveals designs for new Global R&D Centre and Corporate Headquarters in Cambridge, UK. Available from:
  3. Cambridge News (2015). AstraZeneca plans for new Cambridge HQ get the green light . Available from:
  4. BBC News (2015). Cambridge City Council approves AstraZeneca plans. Available from:

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