April 21, 2024

Britain’s biggest drugmaker, AstraZeneca, is to buy a Canadian cancer specialist focusing on next-generation treatments for $2.4bn (£1.9bn), the latest in a series of acquisitions made to bolster its portfolio of new medicines strengthen.

The Anglo-Swedish company has entered into an agreement to acquire Fusion Pharmaceuticals, which develops the next generation of radioconjugates that offer an alternative to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It has emerged as a new type of cancer treatment in recent years and delivers a radioactive isotope directly to cancer cells through precise targeting using molecules such as antibodies, peptides or small molecules.

Compared to traditional radiotherapy, the new medicine reduces damage to healthy cells and enables access to tumors that cannot be reached by external beam radiation. They are based on actinium, a radioactive element.

Fusion’s most advanced treatment, FPI-2265, is for patients with metastatic prostate cancer, where removal of the prostate cannot provide a cure. It is being tested on patients in intermediate (phase II) trials.

The transaction will bring new expertise, R&D and manufacturing to AstraZeneca’s cancer portfolio, and strengthen its presence in Canada. The company already has a collaboration with Fusion.

Susan Galbraith, who runs AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D operation, said: “Between 30% and 50% of patients with cancer today receive radiotherapy at some stage during treatment, and the acquisition of Fusion furthers our ambition to improve this aspect of care transform with the next generation. radioconjugates.

“Together with Fusion, we have an opportunity to accelerate the development of FPI-2265 as a potential new treatment for prostate cancer, and to leverage their innovative actinium-based platform to develop foundational radioconjugates.”

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “AstraZeneca is very much at the forefront of new ways to treat cancer and is not afraid to make multiple bets on potential first-in-class candidates.

“Cancer treatments already represent a third of sales for AstraZeneca and remain a key driver of growth. Often, these treatments can maintain high levels of growth that extend into the future as patient access improves, approval is gained in new markets, and new use cases emerge through clinical trials. But product development can be very expensive in terms of research and marketing, so the company plans for growth through acquisition to avoid a potential drag on profits by focusing purely on long-term in-house drug development.

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AstraZeneca has been making acquisitions in various areas and recently completed the $1.2 billion acquisition of Gracell Biotechnologies, which develops cell therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases and has operations in China and the US.

In November, AstraZeneca made a major push into the weight loss drug market, with an exclusive license deal with a Chinese company for an obesity and type 2 diabetes pill it is in early stage development.

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