2024-03-21| M&ATrending

AstraZeneca’s Latest Moves in Pharmaceuticals in Q1 2024

by Bernice Lottering
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In the most recent development, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has announced plans to acquire Fusion Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical firm specializing in next-generation radioconjugates (RCs). In a deal valued at approximately $2 billion, this agreement represented a significant advancement in the progression of cancer treatment. 

This deal comes on the heels of the industry leader’s $1.05 billion purchase of rare endocrine disease biotech Amolyt Pharma, which roped Amolyt’s hypoparathyroidism drug, eneboparatide (AZP-3601), into AstraZeneca’s rare disease pipeline.

A Paradigm Shift in Cancer Treatment

AstraZeneca’s current procurement of Fusion Pharmaceuticals Inc. builds upon their initial collaboration in 2020, worth $45 million, where they explored combining AZ’s tumor-targeting antibodies with Fusion’s radioactive payloads. Now, leveraging Fusion’s Targeted Alpha Therapies (TATs) platform and radiopharmaceutical expertise alongside AstraZeneca’s array of antibodies and cancer treatments, including DNA Damage Response Inhibitors (DDRis), the partnership aims to advance in the promising market of next-generation RCs. These therapies offer targeted delivery of radioactive isotopes to cancer cells, minimizing damage to healthy tissues and expanding treatment accessibility.

This strategic acquisition enriches AstraZeneca’s pipeline with Fusion’s advanced RCs, notably FPI-2265, a potential breakthrough in treating metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) that is currently in Phase-II testing. Leveraging Fusion’s pioneering research and manufacturing capabilities in actinium-based RCs, AstraZeneca seems to strengthen its foothold in the rapidly evolving field of cancer therapeutics.

Overall, radiotherapeutics represent a growing movement in the cancer market. Since Novartis initiated the trend with its $2.1 billion acquisition of Endocyte in 2018 to secure Pluvicto, a series of significant moves have unfolded in the radiopharma domain. Eli Lilly’s strategic investment of $1.4 billion in Point Biopharma and Bristol Myers Squibb’s substantial $4.1 billion acquisition of RayzeBio emphasize the growing importance of radiopharmaceuticals in cancer therapy. Additionally, Roche/Genentech’s licensing deal of approximately $1 billion PeptiDream further solidifies the industry’s recognition of the promise of radiopharma, signaling a shift in the oncology landscape.

Diversification into Rare Endocrinology

Then, AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Amolyt Pharma would see the pharma giant integrate eneboparatide, a novel hypoparathyroidism drug, into its rare disease pipeline. The deal, valued at $800 million upfront and an additional $250 million in milestones, provides insights as to AZ’s calculated expansion in the field of rare endocrinology.

Hypoparathyroidism, a rare condition characterized by underactive parathyroid glands, leads to decreased calcium levels in the bloodstream. This disorder can result in chronic kidney disease, affecting approximately 115,000 individuals in the United States, with the majority being women. Eneboparatide, a therapeutic peptide currently in Phase 3 trials, offers a promising alternative to conventional treatments, aiming to restore calcium levels and alleviate symptoms associated with hypoparathyroidism.

AstraZeneca’s expansion into rare endocrinology gained momentum with its acquisition of Alexion in 2020, now integrated as the Rare Disease arm of the company. Marc Dunoyer, CEO of Alexion and AstraZeneca Rare Disease, highlighted their unique capability to spearhead late-stage development and commercialization of eneboparatide, addressing the urgent medical needs of hypoparathyroidism patients. Dunoyer emphasized, “Chronic hypoparathyroid patients urgently require an alternative to current supportive therapies that fail to address the underlying hormone deficiency.”

Strategic Growth Amid Market Challenges

Amidst market turbulence, AstraZeneca seems to be charting a path for strategic expansion. Despite COVID-19 vaccine revenue declines in 2023, the company showcased resilience, reporting an impressive 8% revenue growth in Q4. Fueling this growth spree, AstraZeneca made strategic acquisitions by jumping into the obesity treatment market and snagging Eccogene’s GLP-1 drug (ECC5004) for $185 million, and acquiring Icosavax for up to $1.1 billion to fortify its vaccine pipeline. Additionally, its integration of Alexion, with a purchase and license agreement with Pfizer, adds to its arsenal of gene therapy programs. The latest acquisitions of Amolyt Pharma and Fusion Pharmaceuticals Inc. not only demonstrate the company’s diversity in the various therapeutic fields, including oncology and rare endocrinology, but also show its adaptability in navigating current industry shifts.

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