AstraZeneca to open Barcelona hub for rare disease drug development

Pharmaceutical company will hire up to 100 people in Catalan capital

A breast cancer research lab in Tortosa
A breast cancer research lab in Tortosa / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 7, 2022 11:04 AM

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will open a rare diseases research hub for the development of new generation drugs in Barcelona, as announced by business and labor department officials on Monday.

Up to 100 R&D specialists will be hired to work at the hub in the coming two years.

The hub, created by AstraZeneca offshoot Alexion, which develops therapies for rare disorders, aims to become one of Europe's "largest clinical excellence and innovation centers" for this kind of research. 

"Barcelona is fast becoming one of the most vibrant cities in Europe in the health sector, which is why it is an ideal location for this center, to explore and develop new treatment options that will change the lives of patients with rare diseases," explained Gonzalo de Miquel, the vice president of the new hub in Barcelona.

There is a significant unmet medical need when it comes to rare diseases, according to AstraZeneca, who say that of the nearly 7,000 rare diseases identified, around 95% do not have a specific treatment.

"Boost for life sciences and health sector"

Roger Torrent, Catalan business minister, welcomed the news: "We are extremely pleased that AstraZeneca has chosen Catalonia as the location for this research hub, a project that has the support of the government through ACCIÓ [Catalonia Trade & Investment]."

Torrent says the hub will provide a boost to the entire life sciences and health sector in Catalonia, "which already represents 8.7% of GDP and has established itself as one of the driving forces of the whole economy."

"High value-added investments such as AstraZeneca's have a major impact in terms of job creation and scientific and social progress," he added.

AstraZeneca is a global pharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription drugs, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three main areas: oncology; cardiovascular, renal and metabolism; and respiratory diseases.

Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, AstraZeneca operates in more than 100 countries; its drugs are used by millions of patients worldwide. In 2021 AstraZeneca acquired Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a company specializing in rare diseases based in Massachusetts, US.

AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine is among those approved for use by the European Medicines Agency.