AstraZeneca to spend £275m on cancer firm

DRUGS maker AstraZeneca said yesterday its MedImmune unit is buying biotech company Spirogen for up to $440m (£275m) to bolster its research and development pipeline in cancer treatments.

Privately held Spirogen focuses on antibody-drug conjugate technology, which has the potential to directly target cancer tumours while safeguarding healthy cells, AstraZeneca said.

AstraZeneca said it would pay an initial $200m plus a further $240m if Spirogen meets development targets.

It will also pay $20m to take an equity investment in Swiss-based ADC Therapeutics, which has a licensing agreement with Spirogen.

“The cutting-edge technologies developed by Spirogen and ADC Therapeutics complement Med-Immune’s innovative antibody engineering capabilities, enabling us to accelerate antibody-drug conjugates into the clinic,” said MedImmune executive vice president Bahija Jallal.

Oncology treatments, both traditional “small cell” pills and injectable biologics, has been prioritised as a research area by AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot, who previously headed up Roche’s Genentech biotech unit.

MedImmume, the US biotech business that AstraZeneca bought in 2007 for $15.6bn, is key to the strategy.

The unit is focused on two key areas in oncology development: antibody-drug conjugates and immune-mediated cancer therapy, which aims to harness the power of the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.