Swedish Builder Aims to Revive AstraZeneca Lab as Research Park

Swedish construction magnate Mats Paulsson, whose son died of cancer, is leading an effort to transform laboratories being abandoned by AstraZeneca Plc into a campus aimed at keeping medical research in the country.

Paulsson, who co-founded Peab AB with his brother in 1959 and is the building company’s chief executive officer, established a foundation to buy and redevelop the laboratory site in Lund, Sweden, and pledged 100 million kronor ($16 million) in January. The group is meeting today with about 100 potential investors, said Mats Leifland, who is leaving as Peab’s deputy CEO to become the research park’s president.

AstraZeneca, the second-biggest U.K. drugmaker, said last year that it’s closing the 80,000-square-meter (861,000 square-foot) facility, one of three in Sweden. Leifland said the London-based manufacturer expects to leave the site by June. About 32,000 people were employed in Sweden’s life-science research industry in 2009, a 5.9 percent decline from 2006, according to a March study by Vinnova, a government innovation-promotion agency.

Paulsson “saw how a lot of money and research were about to leave Sweden,” Leifland said in a phone interview. “What we wanted to do was to continue the possibility of doing research at a high level in Sweden.”

The Peab CEO’s son, Stefan, was 40 when he died three years ago, said Goesta Sjoestroem, chief information officer of the company. Paulsson, who is from the region near Lund, is interested in the health of his company’s 14,000 employees, Sjoestroem said.

Property Sale

AstraZeneca agreed to sell the property, which Peab built, for 450 million kronor and will turn it over to foundation by about next January, said Leifland, whose departure from the Forslov, Sweden-based construction company was announced today.

The first tenants are expected to be identified by then, with the aid of the potential investors invited to the meeting tonight, Leifland said. The financial partners would also act as a support network for researchers and participate as investment partners, Leifland said. He declined to specify how much the foundation expects to spend.

Cutbacks in pharmaceutical research in Sweden began as long as a decade ago, propelled by the former Stockholm-based Pharmacia AB combining with competitors abroad and selling its research operations in the country, according to the study by Vinnova.

“We can see that research in Sweden hasn’t been a priority through a number of years,” and the facility’s establishment will be aimed at creating a “world-class” industry in Sweden, Leifland said.

The research complex will be dubbed Ideon Medicon Village, the foundation said today in a statement. It will “complement” the Ideon Science Park, which focuses on information technology, Leifland said.

Both projects have ties to Lund University. Among the enterprises committed to setting up at the life-science center is a cancer research center that the university will set up.

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