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AstraZeneca goes Dutch on discovery with split contracts for BioFocus and Argenta

By Gareth Macdonald , 14-Mar-2012
Last updated on 14-Mar-2012 at 15:00 GMT

UK drug major AstraZeneca has contracted BioFocus and Argenta to provide it with discovery services just weeks cutting its internal R&D capacity. 

Under the deal the two firms – both of which are part of Dutch group Galapagos – will provide development services focused around respiratory and inflammatory diseases.

Galapagos spokesman Chris Newton told Outsouring-pharma.com that: “Each project will be staffed by either Argenta or by BioFocus scientists at their respective sites.”

The projects will be hit-to-lead or lead optimization projects staffed by chemists, biologists and pharmacokineticists drawn from BioFocus or Argenta depending into which organization the project is placed."

The exception to this arrangement - Newton explained - is pharmacology services which, if required by AstraZeneca, will be provided solely by Argenta.

Both Argenta and BioFocus have worked with the UK drugmaker extensively over the last decade and these existing relationships were probably critical in winning the expanded contracts.

AstraZeneca seems to value existing partnerships when selecting its outsourcing providers, at least that is if today’s news and the recent agreement with Cognizant on biostatistics are any indication

Internal R&D cuts

The BioFocus and Argenta contracts follow hot on the heels of AstraZeneca's announcement of extensive cuts to its internal R&D staff. In February it said it would reduce its global development workforce by 2,300 people .

At the time the firm said: “[The] changes will create a simpler and more innovative R&D organisation with a lower and more flexible cost base. Excess capacity in certain R&D functions will be reduced, matching resources to AstraZeneca’s more focused R&D portfolio.

The decision to outsourcing specific disease areas to BioFocus and Argenta is similar to the approach AstraZeneca adopted for its neuroscience programmes, for which it established a 40 strong ‘virtual’ team of scientists solely focused on that area of development.

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