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Web Date: April 23, 2007

AstraZeneca Will Acquire MedImmune

Purchase is the second big biotech deal for British firm
Department: Business
Brennan
Credit: ASTRAZENECA
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Brennan
Credit: ASTRAZENECA

Continuing its push into the business of making protein-based drugs, often referred to as biologics, U.K.-based AstraZeneca has agreed to acquire MedImmune of Gaithersburg, Md., for about $15.6 billion.

Although not as well-known as leaders such as Genentech and Amgen, MedImmune is a formidable presence in the biotechnology industry, posting revenues last year of $1.3 billion and earnings of $75 million. Its main product is Synagis, a treatment for respiratory syncytial virus that had $1.1 billion in sales last year.??

MedImmune announced on April 12 that it was putting itself up for sale after receiving expressions of interest from unnamed major drug companies.

AstraZeneca says the acquisition "significantly accelerates" its strategy of becoming a large player in protein-based pharmaceuticals, which are typically produced in microbial or mammalian cells. In contrast to many of its global drug company peers, AstraZeneca's products marketed today are all small-molecule compounds made via chemical synthesis.??

The company initiated the biologics push last year when it acquired fellow U.K. firm Cambridge Antibody Technology for about $1.3 billion. At the time, AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan said he was looking for more deals in the biopharma sphere. His stated goal was for a quarter of the firm's new drug candidates to be biological therapeutics by 2010.

AstraZeneca says the MedImmune deal will increase the proportion of biologics in its pipeline from 7% to 27% today. "This acquisition represents a transformational step to deliver our biologics strategy sooner than anticipated," Brennan say.??

In addition, the purchase takes AstraZeneca into the business of vaccines, a field in which drug companies such as Pfizer and Merck have been increasing their presence. MedImmune's second biggest product is the inhaled flu vaccine FluMist, which had sales last year of $36 million.

 
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