AstraZeneca agrees to pay up to £4.7bn for cancer drug

AstraZeneca has agreed a deal worth as much as £4.7bn with a Japanese drug company to develop and market a potential new cancer treatment.

The British–Swedish pharmaceutical company said it would pay $1bn (£800m) upfront to its partner, Daiichi Sankyo, in what is the latest of a series of bets by the pharma company on oncology treatments.

AstraZeneca has also promised to pay up to $1bn if the treatment, which it hopes to use for lung and breast cancers, gets approval from regulators and up to $4bn (£3.1bn) more if it sells as hoped.

The drugmaker has received increased interest from investors during 2020 thanks to successful early trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine in partnership with the University of Oxford. The potential vaccine is undergoing mass trials in Brazil and South Africa to see if it prevents infection by Sars-CoV-2, the virus which has caused the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, AstraZeneca’s rise to the top of the UK’s FTSE 100 index by market value has been founded on investments in cancer drugs that can potentially bring in billions of pounds of revenues. Its bestselling cancer drug, Tagrisso, brought in $3.2bn in sales last year. Two others, Imfinzi and Lynparza, made more than $1bn apiece.

The latest potential cancer treatment, DS-1062, targets the Trop2 protein, which is overproduced by most breast and lung cancers. Homing in on the cells that produce too much of the protein allows the treatment to deliver selective chemotherapy to certain areas, rather than subjecting the whole body to the treatment.

The medicine has not yet been approved for use in any country, and its safety and efficacy have not been established.

“We see significant potential in this antibody drug conjugate in lung as well as in breast and other cancers that commonly express Trop2,” said AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot.

The deal will give AstraZeneca a slice of the global sales of the treatment, as the two companies have agreed to partner up to develop and then commercialise DS-1062. However, Daiichi Sankyo will keep the exclusive rights to the Japanese market.

In March last year the two drug companies started a similar partnership to develop and commercialise the breast cancer treatment Enhertu.

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Soriot said: “We now have six potential blockbusters in oncology with more to come in our early and late pipelines.”

Daiichi Sankyo’s chief executive, Sunao Manabe, said the new treatment could become “best in class” for targeting and treating multiple tumours, including breast and lung cancers.

“This new strategic collaboration with AstraZeneca, a company with extensive experience and significant expertise in the global oncology business, will enable us to deliver DS-1062 to more patients around the world as quickly as possible,” he said.


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