Ex-AstraZeneca campus pines for tenants as Big Pharma flees for cities

AstraZeneca ($AZN) hammered the local economy in Loughborough, U.K., in 2011 when it closed down a 70-acre research campus and ditched 1,200 jobs in the process. Now developers are working to pick up the pieces, rebranding the drug development ghost town with hopes of luring new tenants while Big Pharma moves away from the model of secluded R&D.

The site's new owners have rechristened it the Charnwood Biomedical Campus, boasting 450,000 square feet of unused space for labs, offices and manufacturing facilities, the Leicester Mercury reports. Charnwood execs are optimistic they can restore the mothballed site to its former glory, telling the newspaper they're in "advanced negotiations" with an unnamed tenant that would bring in between 300 and 400 employees.

And Charnwood is hardly alone. As more and more biopharma giants wise up to the benefits of collaborative development, they're fleeing the confines of remote megaplexes for urban innovation hubs, favoring towns called Cambridge on both sides of the Atlantic.

That paradigm shift may make it difficult for Charnwood--and whoever inherits AZ's soon-to-be-vacant Alderley Park digs--to find anchor tenants for their burgeoning inventory. But the developers remain undaunted, and Charnwood director Dominc Young told the Mercury he believes the once-abandoned campus can replicate the collaborative environment its former owner fled to find in the city.

"It will create an innovative and collaborative environment where ideas come to life and thrive, as well as being a unique and exciting place to work that will add value and opportunity to the local economy," Young said. "The campus will attract tenant businesses from new start-ups through to established enterprises that are looking to grow and develop in a dedicated and relevant environment."

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