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AstraZeneca to cut 1,200 jobs in Delaware

Randall Chase, AP Business Writer

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC said Monday it would cut 1,200 jobs at its U.S. headquarters in Wilmington.

The U.K.-based pharmaceutical company said it was eliminating 1,600 jobs worldwide in a global restructuring of its research and development centers, to be completed by 2016. Small molecule and biologics R&D activities will be concentrated in Gaithersburg, Md., Cambridge, England, and Mölndal, Sweden.

Gov. Jack Markell learned of the planned cuts in Wilmington a short time before they were publicly announced.

"As AstraZeneca leadership explained to us, they are trying to position the company for a return to growth and with that comes some very difficult corporate decisions," Markell spokeswoman Cathy Rossi said. "It is not easy to hear people will lose their jobs or move to another location. We wish AstraZeneca were positioned differently, but we understand the business challenges the company faces as it works to reinvigorate its scientific leadership."

AstraZeneca said the exit of its global medicines development group from Wilmington and the relocation of global marketing and U.S. specialty care commercial roles would result in about 1,200 job cuts in Wilmington. But Wilmington will remain the company's North America commercial headquarters, with about 2,000 employees.

Company spokesman Tony Jewell said about half the targeted jobs in Wilmington will be eliminated. Of the remainder, about 300 will go to Gaithersburg and 80 to Waltham, Mass., with the rest spread among other sites in the U.S. and overseas.

"It isn't a Delaware issue," Jewell said, explaining that AstraZeneca wants to position its scientists focusing on discovery and early research with developmental scientists working to bring those discoveries to market.

Wilmington is home to scientists doing only developmental work, and Jewell said it made sense to pair research and developmental scientists in Gaithersburg, home to AstraZeneca's MedImmune subsidiary and the primary location for AstraZeneca's research on biologic drugs.

As part of the restructuring, AstraZeneca also will seek to jettison the southern part of its sprawling campus off Concord Pike in northern Wilmington.

The company previously had listed the Rollins Building, a 209,000-square-foot office tower on Concord Pike, for sale. As a result of the restructuring announced Monday, Astrazeneca also will seek to shed its South Campus property, separated from the larger North Campus by Powder Mill Road, Jewell said.

The 58-acre South Campus site includes two office buildings measuring about 380,000 square feet, along with a large parking garage.

"We'll pursue all options, including sale of the buildings and the property," Jewell said. "The exact nature of the site changes will be discussed and finalized in the months ahead."

In persuading AstraZeneca to select Wilmington over Pennsylvania as the site of its U.S. headquarters in 1999, then-Gov. Tom Carper offered AstraZeneca about $50 million in state incentives, including 86 acres of state-owned land and tens of millions of dollars in tax credits.

"We met and exceeded our obligations under our agreement with the state," Jewell said. "We also remain committed to Wilmington as our North America commercial headquarters."

Carper, now Delaware's senior U.S. senator, issued a statement expressing his disappointment over AstraZeneca's decision, as did fellow Democratic senator Chris Coons.

"Today's announcement by AstraZeneca is a body blow to our state and, most importantly, to the thousands of AstraZeneca employees who call Delaware home," Carper said.



AstraZeneca: http://www.astrazeneca.com/Home