“For any scientist, the most exciting place to be is among other scientists willing to share their experience, insight and know-how,” says Dr Mike Snowden, Head of Discovery Sciences at AstraZeneca. “Becoming an integral member of the vibrant life-science ecosystem in Cambridge is already proving to be a great catalyst for scientific innovation within our company.”

There are around 1,300 people currently working with the Anglo-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca (AZ) and its biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, in Cambridge. By 2018, a further thousand or so will be accommodated at the Global R&D Centre and Corporate Headquarters set to rise in the Biomedical Campus. Dr Snowden’s vision of scientists from academia and industry rubbing shoulders creatively and openly is a belief central to the way that AZ goes about its business. It is, in his words, “a different approach to pushing the boundaries of science that will help us to deliver more life-changing medicines more quickly”.


Putting Science at the heart

What does this mean on the ground? “Culturally, it’s about putting science at the heart of everything we do,” he says. “It’s clear to scientists why we continue to pursue novel, groundbreaking science. However, we also know that it’s important for everyone in the company – whether you’re in finance, commercial, HR or operations – to have the same passion for what we do.

“People from our commercial teams regularly sit in on scientific presentations and encourage our scientists to talk about the excitement that we’re generating in the labs. And those people in turn bring a perspective to bear on our science. There’s a real engagement running throughout the company that I believe to be absolutely unique. Science isn’t just what we do, it’s who we are. Our people and our scientific partners tell us that the way we work is unique in the pharma industry. There is huge focus on teamwork, openness and global working. There is immense cohesion here, all of it orientated towards the enhancement of innovation in science.”


A culture of transparency

What sort of people is AZ looking for? “It starts with great science – we need people who are absolutely world class in what they do,” says Dr Karen Sutherland, Vice President Human Resources. “However, science was traditionally conducted in secret behind closed doors. We want people who are open to the idea that great science is no longer done in isolation. The people who really thrive here are those who have a mindset that is very open and curious – people who are interested in collaborating not just internally but externally too. People with networks. People who are not afraid to share.

“Being open, connected and collaborative is key to the way we work,” she continues. “And it’s reflected in the location and design of our new centre in Cambridge. We chose a location in the middle of one of the world’s most admired bioscience clusters and are building an open, welcoming environment where the science happening in our labs will be visible to our visitors. This amazing new building really is going to be a metaphor for what we stand for.”

“Cambridge is the discovery heart of the UK pharma industry,” adds Dr Snowden. “It is at the cutting edge of emerging science, and for us it’s really exciting to be part of it. From peer-to-peer scientific discussion and collaboration to the PhD scheme established with the university, AstraZeneca really is investing in the region and helping to inspire the next generation of scientists.” A different way of doing science indeed.