Monday 27 July 2020 8:50 am

Astrazeneca secures $6bn cancer drug deal with Japan’s Daiichi

Astrazeneca is set to pay up to $6bn (£4.7bn) to Japanese firm Daiichi Sankyo to develop and market a cancer treatment, marking the second multi-billion dollar cancer drug deal between the two companies.

London-listed Astrazeneca today said it will pay Daiichi an upfront payment pf $1bn for an antibody drug conjugate — a class of treatments which spare healthy cells damaged during chemotherapy. 

Read more: Government announces £100m funding for new coronavirus vaccine centre

The drug targets proteins on cancer cell surfaces seen in up to 80 per cent of triple-negative breast cancer cases and other lung cancers. 

The remaining sum will be paid when regulatory and sales milestones are met, the company added.

It comes as the pharmaceuticals giants last year signed a near $7bn deal for a breast cancer treatment, now called Enhertu, which is also being tested in other tumour types. 

Astrazeneca and Daiichi are also in talks over supply of the British company’s potential coronavirus vaccine in Japan. 

The potential vaccine being developed by Astrazeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford was last week deemed safe and found to induce a “strong response” from the immune system, in a major global breakthrough.

An initial trial of 1,077 people showed that the injection produced antibodies and white blood cells in patients, a new study published in the Lancet medical journal found. 

However, rollout of the potential coronavirus vaccine will likely be limited to the most at-risk members of the public, the deputy chief medical officer said last week

Speaking to a virtual meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “We may end up in the first instance with a vaccine that is most appropriately targeted and which has a label that restricts its use to a certain population.”

Van-Tam added that regulatory bodies may roll out a potential vaccine to more vulnerable groups such as over-50s or “the elderly”.

“As we know with this disease, the likelihood of death changes markedly with age. And so the risk benefit for a vaccine is likely to be very different by age.”

He added: “We’ll deal with a very large amount of the population who have the mortality loaded against them at the moment.”

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty last week threw cold water on the possibility of getting a vaccine by winter, saying that the chances were “very low”.

Read more: Oxford vaccine could be rolled out by end of the year

Whitty said: “I want to be very clear we’re incredibly excited by and proud of what the UK has done in leading the way on vaccine science here and on funding vaccines elsewhere… but no one should be under any illusions — the chances of us getting a vaccine by Christmas that is actually highly effective is in my view very low.”

The chief medical officer added that a potential second wave of the virus during the winter months was a “really serious concern,” as the UK still lacks the testing capacity to effectively enforce local lockdowns at the speed required.

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