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AstraZeneca Binds to biologics for new strategy Horizon

Authored by James Sheppard

On April 3rd AstraZeneca announced that MedImmune, its global biologics R&D unit, had completed the purchase of US biotech AlphaCore Pharma, for an undisclosed sum. AlphaCore are developing ACP-501 for the treatment of LCAT Deficiency Syndrome and Atherosclerosis.

MedImmune has chosen to invest early in AlphaCore’s technology as their lead asset, ACP-501, is many years from being part of AstraZeneca’s late stage pipeline. The latest data released by AlphaCore in 2012 showed that ACP-501 was well-tolerated and quickly boosts levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol.

Bahija Jallal, EVP of MedImmune, stated ‘cardiovascular disease is projected to remain the single biggest cause of death worldwide over the next decade and beyond. Through novel approaches such as LCAT (as offered by AlphaCore), we hope to shift the treatment paradigms in this area to help prevent and treat these conditions’.

The AlphaCore purchase comes soon after AstraZeneca invested $240m in upfront payments to Moderna Therapeutics. Moderna are currently developing, preclinically, programs that use messenger RNA to turn cells in the body into factories for healing proteins.

To add to Soriot’s deal making AstraZeneca’s recently announced two more deals on the 22nd April. Both these deals are in the field of oncology and took place on opposite sides of the Atlantic. AstraZeneca announced a drug discovery deal with Cambridge, Massachusetts based Bind Therapeutics. The deal will see AstraZeneca and Bind Therapeutics combining in the field of cancer nanomedicine. The deal involved upfront and pre-approval milestone payments of $69m and more than $130m in other milestone payments. For Bind Therapeutics, this is their 3rd global pharma partner to add to Amgen and Pfizer.

The second AstraZeneca deal was concluded on 23rd April with UK based Horizon Discovery. The deal will see AstraZeneca and Horizon combining on the biotech’s kinase target program, HD-001, to target new cancer therapies. AstraZeneca declined to say how much the deal was worth but did state that there was a commitment of $75m in milestone payments.

Pascal Soriot has made no secret of the need to rebuild AstraZeneca’s pipeline. The recent spate of deals shows that he is intent on building the pipeline, for the meantime it would seem this will be from the bottom up with early stage deals.

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