AstraZeneca Set to Acquire Alexion Pharmaceuticals in 2021

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

Share this article:

Share article via email

After unanimous votes by the boards of directors of both companies, AstraZeneca has announced it will acquire Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

If the acquisition gets all needed regulatory clearances, as well as approvals by the shareholders of both companies, the deal is expected to be finalized in the third quarter of 2021.

Following the deal, AstraZeneca will establish a dedicated rare disease unit to be headquartered in Boston, the companies said in a press release.

Alexion has developed a number of medications to treat rare diseases; the company focuses on therapies that target the immune system. One of Alexion’s medications is Soliris (eculizumab), which is approved in the U.S. and the EU for the treatment of generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG), atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

Soliris works by blocking part of the immune system called the terminal complement cascade, which prevents the immune-mediated damage that is characteristic of these disorders.

Updated recommendations for the best management of myasthenia gravis, from a team of international experts, indicated that Soliris should be used to treat gMG patients with severe refractory (resistant) disease, or those who have not responded to other immune-targeting therapies.

In aHUS, Soliris helps prevent the formation of the terminal complement complex C5b-9 and stops clotting within blood vessels.

In the case of NMOSD, it is indicated for patients who test positive for aquaporin-4 water channel autoantibodies (AQP4-IgG).

More recently, Alexion launched Ultomiris (ravulizumab), a second-generation monoclonal antibody that also targets the complement cascade, but has a more convenient dosing regimen. Ultomiris is approved to treat adults and children with aHUS in the U.S., EU and Japan.

“Alexion has established itself as a leader in complement biology, bringing life-changing benefits to patients with rare diseases. This acquisition allows us to enhance our presence in immunology,” said Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca.

The companies noted Alexion will bring its innovative complement-technology platforms and strong pipeline to AstraZeneca.

“For nearly 30 years Alexion has worked to develop and deliver transformative medicines to patients around the world with rare and devastating diseases. I am incredibly proud of what our organisation has accomplished and am grateful to our employees for their contributions,” said Ludwig Hantson, PhD, CEO of Alexion.

“This transaction marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Alexion,” Hantson said. “We bring to AstraZeneca a strong portfolio, innovative rare disease pipeline, a talented global workforce and strong manufacturing capabilities in biologics.”

Under the new agreement, Alexion shareholders will receive a combination of cash and AstraZeneca stock, with an estimated value of $175 per share. Upon completion of the deal, Alexion shareholders would own approximately 15% of the combined company.

“We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues at Alexion so that we can together build on our combined expertise in immunology and precision medicines to drive innovation that delivers life-changing medicines for more patients,” Soriot said.

Hantson added: “We remain committed to continuing to serve the patients who rely on our medicines and firmly believe the combined organisation will be well positioned to accelerate innovation and deliver enhanced value for our shareholders, patients and the rare disease communities.”