LONDON Aug 26 AstraZeneca Plc took a
further step to bolster its pipeline of new cancer drugs on
Monday by agreeing to acquire privately held U.S. biotech
company Amplimmune for up to $500 million.
The deal is the second within 24 hours in the cancer drug
space, following Amgen Inc's much larger acquisition of
Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc for about $10.4 billion.
Amplimmune specialises in developing treatments designed to
help the immune system fight cancer and the purchase will give
AstraZeneca access to a number of compounds currently in
While it will not yield commercially viable new medicines
for several years, the move fits with the British drugmaker's
strategy of building up its capability in oncology - a key area
identified for investment by CEO Pascal Soriot.
AstraZeneca's MedImmune biotech unit will acquire 100
percent of Amplimmune's shares for an initial $225 million and a
deferred consideration of up to $275 million based on reaching
predetermined development milestones.
"It will allow us to strengthen our arsenal of potential
cancer therapies," Bahija Jallal, executive vice president of
MedImmune, said of the deal.
AstraZeneca already has other immune-mediated cancer
therapies in clinical development and its decision to place a
further bet on early research reflects its determination to
compete with companies such as Roche Holding AG and
Merck & Co Inc in a hot area of cancer research.
The new wave of medicines that tap the power of the immune
system to fight cancer could become the biggest drug class in
history, with potential sales of $35 billion a year, according
to analysts at U.S. bank Citigroup.
Amplimmune's product line-up includes AMP-514, an
anti-programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) medicine that is expected to
ready for testing in patients later this year.