AstraZeneca heralds new chapter as Alexion acquisition completed

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Astrazeneca

AstraZeneca has completed the acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., marking its entry into medicines for rare diseases.

The $39bn deal, announced in December 2020, is AstraZeneca’s largest ever acquisition: allowing it to move further into immunology with an enhanced scientific presence, and giving it Alexion’s lead medicine soliris (eculizumab), among four other approved medicines and a pipeline of 11 molecules.

AstraZeneca predicts Alexion will deliver double-digit average annual revenue growth through 2025: highlighting rare diseases as a high-growth therapy area with rapid innovation and significant unmet medical need.

The acquisition passed the final regulatory hurdle last week, getting the green light from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after gathering approvals from other markets over the past months (including in the US, EU, Japan, South Korea, Israel among others).

Pascal Soriot, CEO, AstraZeneca, said the acquisition marks a new chapter for the company that will augment growth for years to come.

“Our sustained R&D investment in oncology, cardiovascular and renal, as well as respiratory and immunology, has powered AstraZeneca’s transformation and now we add rare diseases, where fewer approved treatment options exist.”

Marc Dunoyer, incoming CEO, Alexion and Chief Financial Officer, AstraZeneca, said: “We look forward to also applying Alexion’s complement-biology platform across areas of AstraZeneca’s broader early stage pipeline and, significantly, to the extraordinary opportunity to extend existing and future rare disease medicines to patients in many countries where AstraZeneca already has a strong presence.”

Boston rare diseases center and global expansion of portfolio

Over 7,000 rare diseases are known today, and only approximately 5% have treatments approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Demand in medicines for rare diseases is forecasted to grow by a low double-digit percentage in the future.

Alexion is focused in complement biology; with the complement cascade pivotal to the innate immune system. This plays a crucial role in many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases across multiple therapy areas: such as haematology, nephrology, neurology, metabolic disorders, cardiology, ophthalmology and acute care.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca says its capabilities in genomics, precision medicine and oligonucleotides can be leveraged to develop medicines targeting less-frequent diseases.

AstraZeneca will use the acquisition to develop a dedicated rare disease unit in Boston; while it will also speed up the worldwide expansion of the Alexion portfolio. Headquartered in Boston, Alexion will now be known as Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease. 

Alexion: Key facts

  • Founded in 1992, Alexion has pioneered complement inhibition for a broad spectrum of immune-mediated rare diseases caused by uncontrolled activation of the complement system, a vital part of the immune system.
  • The company has five approved medicines (andexxa, kanuma, soliris, strensiq, and ultomiris) and a pipeline of 11 molecules in 20+ clinical development programs.
  • Alexion's franchise is led by soliris ​(eculizumab), an anti-complement component 5 (C5) monoclonal antibody. The medicine is approved in many countries for the treatment of patients with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH), atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome, generalized myasthenia gravis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.
  • Alexion's work in immunology extends to other targets in the complement cascade beyond C5 as well as additional modalities, with its deep pipeline including Factor D small-molecule inhibitors of the alternative pathway of the complement system, an antibody blocking neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn)-mediated recycling, and a bi-specific mini-body targeting C5, among others. The FcRn extends the half-life and hence the availability of pathogenic immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies.
  • In Q1 2021 (3 months to April 30), Alexion posted total revenues of $1.6bn, up 13% on Q1 2020. Soliris accounts for the bulk of this: with $1bn in product sales for the quarter.

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