AstraZeneca to double number of countries where US biotech arm sells rare disease drugs


AstraZeneca aims to double the number of countries where its US biotech arm Alexion sells its rare disease drugs, as the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company seeks to capitalize on its $39 billion acquisition.

Alexion scientists are also working with AstraZeneca to develop new treatments for conditions with much larger patient populations, including working on a pill for geographic atrophy, an eye disease that could affect up to a million people. people.

The agreement to acquire Alexion was completed a year ago and in the second quarter, the rare disease business generated $1.8 billion in sales. Over $1 billion in sales have been made in the United States, with Alexion selling directly to 20 other countries and another 30 through partnerships.

Marc Dunoyer, chief executive of Alexion and former chief financial officer of AstraZeneca, said the company aims to sell its products in 100 countries by 2025 to 2030.

In China, where AstraZeneca is the leading Western pharmaceutical company, Alexion has gone from a “zero presence” to an approved drug and 10 in the pipeline for the country.

“The idea is to use AstraZeneca’s subsidiaries as leverage to gain greater reach around the world,” Dunoyer told the Financial Times.

Alexion specializes in “complement biology”, creating drugs that control this important part of the immune system when it overreacts and causes disease that can damage tissue. Its biggest seller Soliris is used to treat serious blood, kidney and muscle conditions.

Dunoyer said Alexion started with “ultra rare diseases” when it brought its first product to market in 2007, treating just a few thousand patients with each drug worldwide, but its scientific breakthroughs have far more. of potential.

“It’s amazing how many areas you can apply it to,” he said. “It’s the most basic protection of the body when it’s working, and then when it deforms, then you have to do some kind of repair to get back in line.”

Dunoyer was AstraZeneca’s chief financial officer when he took the unusual step of raising more money – $3.5 billion – in the public market to help with a $5.5 billion partnership with Daiichi Sankyo.

The partnership developed the drug Enhertu, which recently announced results that oncologists hope will change the way the most common form of advanced breast cancer is treated. The drug could generate about $4 billion a year by the end of the decade, according to forecasts from Datamonitor Healthcare.

Dunoyer said Enhertu was an “incredible scientific adventure” and proved their initial hopes for the drug were correct. AstraZeneca is increasing its research and development spending in part to fund more trials to see if Enhertu can fight other types of cancer.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said Friday that Enhertu’s recent results were “a truly outstanding achievement,” describing how they received a standing ovation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting last month. last.

“I’ve been at ASCO for 22 years now and I’ve only seen two rounds of applause where people stood up, so it was truly a momentous occasion,” he said. “This drug will be a game-changer for many patients around the world.”


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