Commercial AstraZeneca sells assets and signs gene therapy agreement with...

AstraZeneca sells assets and signs gene therapy agreement with Pfizer


AstraZeneca is undergoing significant transformations, as evidenced by a series of announcements. In addition to disclosing its second-quarter financial results, the pharmaceutical business also terminated a number of pipeline projects, followed by the purchase of Pfizer’s portfolio of preclinical gene treatments, and the impending retirement of a significant R&D officer. 

Concerning the pipeline programs, one of the most notable casualties is AZD4573, a CDK9 inhibitor that AstraZeneca had been developing up to phase 2 as a potential treatment for hematological malignancies. The drug was designed to suppress MCL-1 and induce apoptosis in hematologic cancer cells. However, the company has opted to halt its development, including studies on peripheral T-cell lymphoma, citing “strategic portfolio prioritization” as the rationale behind the decision.

Another drug affected by the second-quarter overhaul is AZD0466, a BCL-22/XL inhibitor aimed at addressing the shortcomings of a previous asset called AZD4320. The latter drug was abandoned due to cardiovascular toxicity and other issues. Although AstraZeneca collaborated with Starpharma to create an improved version known as AZD0466, it too has now been discontinued after a thorough evaluation of its benefit-risk profile.

Despite the elimination of AZD0466 and AZD4573 from the pipeline, Susan Galbraith, EVP of oncology R&D, assures stakeholders that the hematology pipeline remains robust and active, with a continued focus on cell death mechanisms for hematological disorders.

Additionally, AstraZeneca has decided to halt the development of AZD3366, a drug candidate for cardiovascular disease. While it showed promise in preclinical studies, it failed to deliver the expected results during clinical trials.

Apart from these pipeline changes, there are also significant shifts within the executive team. Mene Pangalos, EVP of biopharmaceuticals R&D, will step down early next year after serving in the role for five years and having been with the company for 14 years. His successor will be Sharon Barr, who currently leads R&D at AstraZeneca’s rare disease unit, Alexion.

Pangalos, who currently has no concrete plans for another job, intends to take a break and spend more quality time with his family, particularly in Greece, where he can enjoy a more relaxed and slower-paced life.

Simultaneously, Alexion, under Barr’s leadership, is set to gain an expanded preclinical pipeline through a lucrative deal with Pfizer. The agreement, valued at “up to $1 billion,” involves acquiring a portfolio of preclinical gene therapy programs and enabling technologies, including novel adeno-associated virus capsids.

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