June 23, 2013 4:36 pm

AstraZeneca seeks to share drug development cost

AstraZeneca©NewsCast

AstraZeneca is considering a big strategic alliance with another pharmaceutical company to share the costs and benefits of experimental drug development.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said he was exploring options for a third such partnership for a range of drugs or a whole disease area.

The move would follow previous strategic deals AstraZeneca has negotiated with large rivals: with Bristol-Myers Squibb in diabetes and with Amgen for inflammation.

The approach reflects growing appetite in the industry to share the high costs and risks of developing new drugs, as well as combine forces and expertise. It also allows companies to have investments in a broader portfolio of products.

GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Shionogi jointly own ViiV Healthcare, which develops and commercialises a number of treatments for HIV.

Ian Read, the head of Pfizer, said recently he was open to more such joint ventures and partnerships, although the stumbling block was normally agreeing control between competing companies.

Mr Soriot expressed interest in such deals, while adding: “Our own pipeline is growing more rapidly than I anticipated. You have to make choices; you can’t develop everything. By partnering with other companies you can leverage capabilities, leverage synergies and share risks.”

AstraZeneca’s other specialisms include oncology and respiratory medicines. Mr Soriot’s comments came after a series of recent setbacks in the company’s pipeline of drugs, including the failure of a trial to show lower cardiovascular risk in patients taking Onglyza, a diabetes medicine.

He was speaking after AstraZeneca last week unveiled the location of its new global headquarters alongside a research centre at the Cambridge bioscience park.

Mr Soriot reiterated that he was opposed to large scale acquisitions or taking the route of some of his rivals to diversify into businesses outside patented prescription drugs.

“We need to be absolutely focused . . . on building best possible collaborations,” he said. “Diversification is a distraction from the focus on science.”

He stressed his focus was on medicine innovation, despite the setbacks. “This journey will not be smooth. We are executing, but with ups and downs.”

He added: “People expect change immediately but the cycles are very long in our industry. You can only put your head down.”

He expressed continued confidence in Brilique, its drug for acute coronary syndrome, despite slow uptake from health systems including in the UK. “It offers value for money but he way the system is structured, you still have to have money to pay for it. You might agree a Mercedes is a great car but if you don’t have the money, you still can’t buy it.”

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