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AstraZeneca is a global biopharmaceutical business founded in 1999.


AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish, multinational biopharmaceutical company with headquarters in Cambridge, England. The company was founded in 1999 through the merger of the British Zeneca Group and the Swedish Astra AB. AstraZeneca’s drug business focuses on seven main medical fields: inflammation and autoimmunity, cardiovascular, neuroscience, renal and metabolism, infection, oncology, and respiratory.


Astra AB was founded in 1913 in Södertälje, Sweden by 400 doctors who focused on developing pharmaceutical products and medical devices. Eighty years later, in 1993, Zeneca Group was founded when its parent company ICI demerged and functioned as a bioscience company that produced pharmaceuticals, agricultural and specialty chemicals, and disease-specific healthcare services. In 1999, the two companies merged to form AstraZeneca.

The merger of Astra and Zeneca aimed to improve the combined companies’ ability to deliver long term growth. AstraZeneca sought to expand global power and reach in sales and marketing, to function with greater financial flexibility, and to create a stronger research and design platform. Since its formation, the company has made numerous corporate acquisitions, including Cambridge Antibody Technology (in 2006), MedImmune (in 2007), Spirogen (in 2013) and Definiens (by MedImmune in 2014).

Initially, AstraZeneca explored five main areas of research – cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, oncology, and local and general anesthesia. Though the company has since widened its research focus, these original research goals continue to be prioritized fields of study. AstraZeneca has three main research and development centers located in Cambridge, England, Gothenburg, Sweden, and Maryland, U.S.

AstraZeneca US

Beginning its journey in 1953, AstraZeneca US became one of the first pharmaceutical companies operating in the United States. The company has offices in Wilmington, DE, Gaithersburg, MD, and Boston, MA.

AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation was established in 1993, separate from the commercial entity, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. The foundation is a Delaware nonprofit corporation with charitable intentions to promote public awareness of healthcare issues, improve public education of medical knowledge, and support or contribute to organizations consistent with its charitable purpose.

The foundation’s work has yielded the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Legacy Program, an initiative concentrated on improving breast cancer awareness. The foundation also birthed the AstraZeneca Employee Disaster Relief Fund, a program focused on providing support for AstraZeneca employees in times of U.S., federally declared disaster. Connections for Cardiovascular Health (CCH) is another organization the foundation houses. The CCH functions as nonprofit funding programs that provide innovative, community-based approaches aimed at improving cardiovascular health across the United States, especially those directed at aiding underserved communities. In 2020, the Foundation launched CCH Next Generation, an initiative meant to build on the legacy of the CCH program.

Patient Programs

AstraZeneca provides financial support to programs that educate patients and their families with the hopes of strengthening the quality of the care provided. The company supports a variety of nonprofit organizations related to their three core therapeutic areas: cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, oncology, and respiratory diseases. In addition, AstraZeneca has formed their own programs, namely My MBC Story and Beyond Pink, Lungprint, LVNG With, and Save Your Breath.

Technologies Utilized in Pharmaceutical Development
Acoustic tube sample

AstraZeneca’s acoustic sample management solution increases the throughput of sampling by automating sample dispensing and sample retrieval, which increases the efficiency and speed of sample analysis. The system also minimizes the wastage of samples, allowing for a single sample to be used multiple times. AstraZeneca worked with Brooks Life Sciences, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, and Titian Software to develop their fully automated acoustic sample management solution.

Advanced molecular imaging

AstraZeneca’s molecular imaging system utilizes innovations in mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) to see the effects of a compound on the human body at a cellular level. This imaging system is integral in pharmaceutical development, and MSI is a more efficient and precise method of capturing and analyzing molecules. Traditional techniques of histology and histopathology involved staining a tissue sample and looking for particular cellular behaviors or changes through a microscope. Using MSI allows AstraZeneca to conduct a more detailed and efficient study of each sample through their implementation of machine learning and AI.


AstraZeneca’s implementation of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) allows for greater precision in the field of structure-based drug design, which allows for the design of drugs that target specific proteins based on their shape. Cryo-EM works by flash-freezing a microscopic protein sample before photographing it from multiple angles. Implementing this technology has helped AstraZeneca succeed in designing drugs targeting specific proteins. The company has used this technology to help identify the human ATM gene, which is a key trigger in DNA damage and a prime candidate for oncology treatments. AstraZeneca has also utilized Cryo-EM technology to reveal the structure of the receptor tyrosine kinase RET, which is relevant in neurodegenerative disease and diabetes.

Functional genomics

AstraZeneca uses functional genomics, a drug discovery platform that examines the functional effects of DNA, in order to determine how DNA can cause and impact disease. The company utilizes this method to identify specific genes that control biological processes, determine resistance to medication, or cause sensitivity to treatment. AstraZeneca was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to invest in this technology, setting up dedicated research labs in Gothenburg and Cambridge in 2014.


AstraZeneca’s research into multi-omics has helped develop a deeper understanding of genetics by combining genomics, or the mapping of all human genes and their interactions, with the functional effects of the human genome. AstraZeneca hopes to utilize this deeper understanding of genetics in conjunction with AI to simulate genomic behavior under different circumstances. This technology would allow the company to identify new drug targets and explore different avenues in pharmaceutical treatment.

The AstraZeneca iLab

The AstraZeneca iLab in Gothenburg, Sweden, is a prototype of a fully automated laboratory operating on AI. The purpose of the lab is to attempt to significantly increase the efficiency of the design-make-test-analyze cycle (DMTA) of drug discovery. Many fields of drug discovery are driven by the DMTA cycle, which can be incredibly time consuming. AstraZeneca’s lab has the potential to run multiple parallel cycles and automate the process, which would increase the efficiency and speed of each step. With this implementation of AI and automation, AstraZeneca hopes to reduce the time needed to identify potential drug candidates by half.

COVID-19 Response

In March 2020, AstraZeneca donated 9 million facemasks to 49 countries worldwide. A month later, the company began working with GlaxoSmithKline and the University of Cambridge to develop a new laboratory capable of conducting 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day. AstraZeneca also initiated clinical trials to investigate new and existing medications, specifically Calquence, as possible treatment methods for COVID-19.

In June 2020, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) confirmed that the third phase of testing for potential vaccines developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca would begin in July 2020. In November 2020, AstraZeneca announced that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, AZD1222, was 70% effective. Since the original announcement, more research has been conducted and determined that the vaccine has the potential to prevent 90% of people from developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The vaccine was approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom on December, 30 2020 and the first vaccination was administered on January 4, 2021. India has since approved the AZD1222 vaccine and announced that the shot would be made locally by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under the name Covishield. AstraZeneca has also mobilized research efforts to advance the development of a novel coronavirus-neutralizing long-acting antibody combination for the potential prevention and treatment of COVID-19.


April 26, 2021
EU launches legal action against AstraZeneca over vaccine contract

The European Commission on Monday said it has launched a legal action against vaccine maker AstraZeneca for failing to respect the terms of its contract with the EU.

January 4, 2021
The first AZD1222 vaccination is administered.

The first AZD1222 vaccination was administered in the UK to a man named Brian Pinker.

January 1, 2021
India approves the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

India has approved the AZD1222 vaccine for use and has announced that the shot will be made locally by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under the name Covishield.

December 30, 2020
UK approves the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, AZD1222, was approved for emergency use in the UK.

December 12, 2020
AstraZeneca says it will acquire Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $39 billion.

December 7, 2020
AstraZeneca announces a a partnership with Mumbai-based, a healthcare startup to integrate innovative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for the early detection of lung cancer in patients across India.
December 1, 2020
AstraZeneca says it is selling rights to its cholesterol drug, Crestor, to German pharmaceutical company Grünenthal GmbH for an upfront payment of $320 million.
November 23, 2020
AstraZeneca announces in a press release that its COVID-19 vaccine showed positive results in an interim analysis of clinical trial data.

August 13, 2020
AstraZeneca says it could begin Covid-19 vaccine production early in 2021.
June 4, 2020
AstraZeneca Forges RNA-Modifying Protein Oncology Deal with Accent Therapeutics.




Further Resources


AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine authorised for emergency supply in the UK

Adrian Kemp


December 30, 2020

Transforming the breast cancer patient experience requires a collective collaborative approach

Dave Fredrickson


December 10, 2020


December 8, 2021
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal health officials on Wednesday authorized a new COVID-19 antibody drug for people with serious health problems or allergies who can't get adequate protection from vaccination.
November 23, 2021
LONDON (AP) -- Prince Charles will be on hand Tuesday when pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca opens a 1 billion-pound ($1.34 billion) research center near the University of Cambridge, hoping to build on work in developing one of the first COVID-19 vaccines.
Nick Paul
October 11, 2021
AstraZeneca has chalked up another win for its anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody combination, revealing the prospect cut the rate of severe COVID-19 or death in patients recently infected with the coronavirus. But with AstraZeneca arriving late to the market with efficacy results that fall short of its rivals, the commercial prospects of AZD7442 in the treatment of COVID-19 are uncertain.
October 5, 2021
LONDON (AP) -- AstraZeneca, the drugmaker that developed one of the first COVID-19 vaccines, has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize the emergency use of a first-of-a-kind antibody treatment to prevent the disease.
Nick Paul
October 5, 2021
AstraZeneca has taken another step toward bringing its COVID-19 antibody cocktail to market, filing for emergency use authorization of the long-acting candidate in coronavirus prophylaxis in the U.S.


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