Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca PLC plans to add 80 jobs at its Waltham research and development center over the next two years even as the company eliminates about 1,200 positions at its US headquarters in Wilmington, Del., as part of a global restructuring.
The reorganization, disclosed Monday, will create three company “bioscience clusters” in Gaithersburg, Md., Cambridge, England, and MoIndal, Sweden, where AstraZeneca will co-locate its drug discovery, development, and commercial operations. The smaller research site in Waltham, which currently has about 460 employees, will support the larger sites.
“Because of what Massachusetts is, it certainly makes sense to continue to have a research and development presence there feeding the work at the three centers,” said Tony Jewell, a spokesman for AstraZeneca. He said the large number of academic research and biotechnology start-ups in Massachusetts have drawn many of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical firms.
Drug giants such as AstraZeneca, Novartis AG of Switzerland, Sanofi SA of France, Shire PLC of Ireland, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan have been hiring research scientists in Massachusetts, and have largely spared their operations here from cuts, even as they’ve scaled back at other research locations in recent years.
An exception to that trend came last week when Great Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline PLC said it was closing the Cambridge office of the drug maker’s Sirtris Pharmaceuticals subsidiary, which it acquired in 2008, and moving a handful of researchers to Philadelphia.
AstraZeneca previously closed or reduced staff at research labs in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Wilmington, Del., but has been expanding its research campus off Route 128 in Waltham, which specializes in developing treatments for cancer and infectious diseases.
Researchers there have forged more than 150 academic collaborations, including alliances with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as well as Lexington biotechnology company Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc.
AstraZeneca’s global restructuring move Monday marked an acceleration of a shakeup already underway at the London-based company. Overall, it will cut about 1,600 jobs, roughly 3 percent of the global workforce, including about 650 positions in the United States.
While the company will move research and development out of Wilmington, about 300 of the 1,200 positions eliminated there will be shifted to the company’s new biosciences cluster in Gaithersburg, site of the MedImmune biologics unit AstraZeneca bought in 2007. The rest of the jobs will be dispersed to other AstraZeneca sites, including 80 to Waltham.
AstraZeneca officials said the goals of the changes are to spur innovation, gain better access to talent in bioscience centers, and to simplify operations as a way to save money.
“This is a major investment in the future of this company that will enable us to accelerate innovation by improving collaboration, reducing complexity and speeding up decision-making,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement.
“The strategic centers will also allow us to tap into important bioscience hotspots providing more of our people with easy access to leading-edge academic and industry networks, scientific talent and valuable partnering opportunities,” he said.