Astrazeneca in £4.7bn deal for cancer drug

Astrazeneca paying up to £4.7bn for global rights to potential treatment for breast and lung cancer

Astrazeneca will pay up to £4.7billion for the global rights to a potential treatment for breast and lung cancer. 

The British drugs giant, which is racing to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, has agreed to hand £800m up front to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo as it is develops a new type of chemotherapy. 

Daiichi will receive another £800m if the medicine is approved by regulators and up to £3.1billion more if it becomes a commercial success. The treatment – known as DS-1062 – is an antibody drug that targets the protein that is overproduced by cancerous cells. 

Unlike conventional chemotherapies, this allows it to selectively attack cancer cells and spare healthy ones, potentially reducing the side effects suffered by patients. 

The drug has not yet won approval from regulators but Astra boss Pascal Soriot said it had ‘significant potential’. Astra previously collaborated with Daiichi on breast cancer treatment Enhertu, which was given ‘breakthrough’ status by US regulators earlier this year. 

Soriot, 61, added: ‘We are delighted to enter this new collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo and to build on the successful launch of Enhertu to further expand our pipeline and leadership in oncology. 

‘We now have six potential blockbusters in oncology with more to come in our early and late pipelines.’ Sunao Manabe, the boss of Daiichi, said: ‘This new strategic collaboration with Astra will enable us to deliver DS-1062 to more patients around the world as quickly as possible.’ 

As with Enhertu, Astra’s deal gives it the ability to acquire global rights for DS-1062 in all countries except Japan. 

The potential treatment is part of a class of drugs known as ‘antibody-drug conjugates’ – or ADCs – which pair cancer-killing chemicals with special anti-bodies that cling on to cancer cells while sparing healthy ones. 

However, the announcement received a lukewarm reception from investors, with shares dipping slightly by 0.05 per cent, or 4p, to 8648p. 

Astra cancer research boss Jose Baselga said early data in May from a DS-1062 phase 1 lung cancer trial played a large role in convincing the firm of the compound’s potential. 

He said: ‘From there, we are going straight to phase 3 studies that will launch this year.’


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