AstraZeneca’s $39 billion takeover of rare disease specialist Alexion has another regulatory blessing in the bag, but the pair are still holding out for a key nod from the U.K. to settle the deal.
AstraZeneca on Tuesday said that the European Union has approved its acquisition of Boston-based Alexion, inching closer toward its goal of closing the deal by the end of September.
The company’s Alexion buyout also has the backing from the U.S., Japan, Canada and others. But it can’t go through without the U.K.’s approval, where it’s still pending, AZ said.
“We are now another step closer to closing the acquisition and combining the two companies to create a leader in immunology and precision medicines,” said AZ’s CFO Marc Dunoyer in a statement.
Once completed, AstraZeneca will create a new group focused on rare diseases headquartered in Boston. Dunoyer will step into the rare disease unit’s top job while retiring from AZ’s board. Meanwhile, Alexion’s current finance exec Aradhana Sarin will step into Dunoyer’s spot.
The acquisition, the biopharma world’s largest in 2020, is set to boost AstraZeneca’s footprint in immunology, as well as bolster the drugmakers’ top line. AstraZeneca, which raked in $26.6 billion in 2020, has set its eyes on $40 billion by 2023.
For Alexion’s part, execs have predicted the drugmaker could generate up to $10 billion in sales by 2025, up from the roughly $6 billion it bagged in 2020. The sale will eventually hand over several marketed drugs to AZ, led by blockbuster complement inhibitors Soliris and Ultomiris.
Meanwhile, Alexion has a slew of medicines under development with the aim of bringing 10 to market by 2023. Yet some investors have worried about the company’s over-reliance on those two drugs, used to treat rare disorders such as paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).
But AZ has been encouraged by Alexion’s ability to transition a bulk of PNH patients from Soliris to Ultomiris in less than two years. The U.K.-based pharma also hopes the complement system can be targeted for more common diseases in the fields of oncology, neurology and respiratory.
On top of Alexion’s C5 franchise, AZ also sees promise in Alexion’s pipeline, which includes treatments for Wilson disease, geographic atrophy and renal diseases, Dunoyer said on a call with analysts earlier this year.