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AstraZeneca inks $3.1bn deal to develop rare disease drug with Ionis

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AstraZeneca inks multi-billion pound deal to develop rare disease drug with California-based Ionis

  • Ionis will manufacture the drug and supply it for ongoing clinical trials 
  • Astra will be responsible for commercial supply and will book all sales
  • It will pay Ionis $200m upfront and up to $2.9bn once it starts selling the drug 


AstraZeneca has closed a deal worth up to $3.1bn to develop and commercialise a rare disease drug with California-based pharma company Ionis.

Under the agreement, Ionis will manufacture the drug and supply it for ongoing clinical trials, while AstraZeneca will be responsible for commercial supply across the world, except Latin America, and will book all sales. 

The UK drugs giant behind one of the Covid-19 vaccines will pay Ionis some $200million, or around £149million, upfront, plus conditional payments of up to $485million, following regulatory approvals.

Drug development: Astrazeneca and Ionis have inked a deal to develop and sell eplontersen

Drug development: Astrazeneca and Ionis have inked a deal to develop and sell eplontersen

In addition, it will fork out up to $2.9billion once the drug is approved for sale.

The amount will depend on how much sales it rakes in, with sales thresholds between $500million and $6billion.

Astra said it will also pay Ionis royalties ‘in the range of low double-digit to mid-twenties percentage depending on the region’. 

The transaction, which will be funded with cash, will not impact AZ’s financial guidance for 2021, it added. 

Astra shares rose 1 per cent to £86.97 in morning trading on Wednesday, bucking the trend of falling pharma company stock prices. The stock has fallen back from the highs it hit in early November, but is still up by around 20 per cent in the year to date. 

The drug being developed is called eplontersen and is used to treat a condition called amyloid transthyretin cardiomyopathy/polyneuropathy that causes fatal heart failure. 

Astra said the condition ‘remains underdiagnosed and its prevalence is thought to be underestimated due to a lack of disease awareness and the heterogeneity of symptoms’. 

The deal comes as Astra scored another victory just before Christmas when a lab study showed its Covid-19 vaccine was effective against the Omicron variant.

The jab, developed with the University of Oxford, ‘significantly boosted’ the levels of antibodies following a third dose – matching vaccines developed by Pfizer, German outfit Biontech and Moderna.

The study also showed that after three doses, the vaccine provided the same neutralisation levels against Omicron as those seen against the Delta variant after two doses.

Astra's shares have risen since the start of the pandemic and are 20% up in the year-to-date

Astra’s shares have risen since the start of the pandemic and are 20% up in the year-to-date

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