Astra in $500m US buy to boost cancer pipeline


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The Independent Online

UK drugs giant AstraZeneca took a further step to bolster its pipeline of new cancer drugs yesterday by agreeing to acquire privately held US biotech company Amplimmune for up to $500m (£321m).

Amplimmune specialises in developing treatments designed to help the immune system fight cancer. The purchase will give AstraZeneca access to a number of compounds in pre-clinical development.

While the move will not yield commercially viable new medicines for several years, it fits with the strategy of chief executive Pascal Soriot, pictured, to build up its capability in oncology. AstraZeneca’s MedImmune biotech unit will acquire 100 per cent of Amplimmune’s shares for an initial $225m and future payments of up to $275m based on reaching predetermined development milestones.

“It will allow us to strengthen our arsenal of potential cancer therapies,” Bahija Jallal, executive vice president of MedImmune, said of the deal.

AstraZeneca already has other cancer therapies in clinical development, and its decision to place a further bet on early research reflects its determination to compete with companies such as Roche and Merck in a hot area of cancer research.

The new wave of medicines that tap the power of the immune system to fight cancer could become the biggest drug class in history, with potential sales of $35bn a year, according to analysts at US bank Citigroup.