AstraZeneca is cutting 168 jobs as it shutters an Indian R&D site

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is pulling the plug on an Indian research shop as part of its ongoing R&D re-think, planning to shed another 168 jobs as it moves away from neglected diseases and focuses on spaces with higher growth potential.

The global pharma giant plans to close its 10-year-old Bangalore outpost later this year, shifting development projects to its Macclesfield, U.K., site or turning them over to third parties, the company said. With the move, AstraZeneca said it's getting out of early stage research into neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis and malaria, but it will spare AZD5847, a TB treatment currently in Phase II development.

"We realize this is difficult news for our research colleagues in Bangalore, and our priority is to support them over the coming months," site leader and AstraZeneca Vice President Sudhir Nambiar said in a statement. "We have not taken this decision lightly and acknowledge the excellent work carried out by our people in Bangalore. These changes reflect the company's strategic focus on investing in our core therapy areas and simplifying our R&D footprint."

Those core areas, AstraZeneca said, are oncology; cardiovascular and metabolic diseases; and respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity.

The latest cuts dovetail with two major tenets of CEO Pascal Soriot's turnaround plan: consolidating AstraZeneca's R&D operation and paring down the payroll. On the former side, the British drugmaker is in the midst of shifting its disparate research arms to a state-of-the-art campus in Cambridge, U.K., cozying up to academic institutions and startups in hopes of fostering some ingenuity. On the latter point, AstraZeneca announced 5,050 layoffs last year, second-most among Big Pharma and part of a cross-cutting effort to become a more nimble operation.

AstraZeneca still employs about 1,200 people in India, and the company said its sales, marketing and manufacturing operations in the country will be spared from its planned reorganization.

- read the statement

Special Report: The top 10 largest pharma layoffs in 2013 - AstraZeneca

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