The Future of Science: Opportunities in the Evolving Biopharmaceuticals Sector

On 21 June 2018, we hosted the AstraZeneca Exchange event in Cambridge, UK. This is an annual forum hosted in Gothenburg and Cambridge to facilitate the exchange of ideas, networking and business partnering opportunities across the life science community. The Cambridge event brought together 150 people representing industry, biotech, academia and the public sector. Topics discussed included the political and business themes shaping the future of the life science sector; successful cross-sector collaborations; the impact of artificial intelligence and big data; and the role of Cambridge as a global life science cluster. There was plenty of audience engagement and opportunities for networking throughout the event.


James Blitz, Whitehall Editor at the Financial Times, kicked off the programme by sharing his thoughts on recent developments around Brexit and what this may mean for business.  Next was a panel discussion on the lifecycle of innovation, highlighting a case study where collaboration enabled an important oncology drug to be brought to market more effectively by competitors working together. Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager of IBM Watson Health and Non-Executive Director at AstraZeneca, shared her thoughts on the science of the future and then joined other expert panellists to discuss the importance of artificial intelligence and big data in medicines discovery and development.


For me, one of the most interesting opportunities in science actually stem from the advances we are now seeing with AI. There’s huge opportunity for us to think about how we apply some of these techniques.

Nick Brown Head of AI & Data Science, AstraZeneca

Speakers and panellists on the day included:

·         James Blitz, Whitehall Editor, Financial Times

·         Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager, IBM Watson Health and Non-Executive Director, AstraZeneca

·         Steve Jackson, Professor at University of Cambridge

·         Elizabeth Croydon, Senior Clinical Director, Oncology, MSD Pharmaceuticals

·         Klaus Edvardsen, SVP, Head of Oncology GMD, AstraZeneca

·         Rodolphe Grepinet, Executive Director, Corporate Development, AstraZeneca

·         Patrick Combes, Worldwide Technical Leader for Healthcare & Life Science, Amazon Web Services

·         Jackie Hunter, CEO,

·         Nick Brown, Head of AI & Data Science, AstraZeneca

Events like this provide me and other scientists a wonderful opportunity to share our ideas with others, evolve those ideas and, in many cases, actually come up with exciting new ones.

Steve Jackson Professor at University of Cambridge

Start-Up Science competition

A key highlight of the event this year was a Start-Up Science competition aimed at showcasing the great science and innovation taking place in the Cambridge ecosystem and help build the next generation of biotechs. Following an earlier round of pitches, three shortlisted teams presented their scientific and business ideas at the AstraZeneca Exchange event. It was a tough choice between CapsuleBot, DrML and Kalium Diagnostics but after tallying the votes of event attendees, Kalium Diagnostics emerged triumphant. The team will receive tailored, one-to-one business mentoring from AstraZeneca/MedImmune executives; access to bioincubator space at the Babraham Institute for one month; and participation on Cambridge Judge Business School’s Ignite programme.  

Days like today are hugely important. It gives us the opportunity to bring together all our partners, prospective partners, and others from the life science cluster in one place, to interact with AstraZeneca colleagues both on the science and business side.

Shaun Grady VP Business Development Operations, AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca in Cambridge

Progress continues with the construction of our future global corporate headquarters and strategic R&D centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

In 2013, AstraZeneca announced that Cambridge will become the home of a new Strategic R&D centre and the company’s Global Corporate headquarters. Our future Cambridge facility demonstrates AstraZeneca’s deep commitment to the UK and the country’s global importance as a location for biopharmaceutical R&D. Together with colleagues from MedImmune, our global biologics R&D arm already located in Cambridge prior to this announcement, the company now has over 2,500 staff based in the area and over 130 scientific collaborations with the University of Cambridge.  As a member of the Cambridge cluster and life-science ecosystem, we work with other organisations to ensure the significant economic and innovation of the cluster has the potential to grow its global competitiveness. Read more

For more information about the AstraZeneca Exchange, click here.



  • Partnering
  • Science