On April 23 2007 AstraZeneca announced it’s acquisition of MedImmune for $15.6 billion. At least 20 companies had expressed an interest in acquiring MedImmune before AstraZeneca stepped in. The deal brings to AstraZeneca an additional 45 projects to its research and development programme and triples the percentage of biotech drugs in the company’s pipeline from 7 to 27 percent. While it remains to be seen how competitive AstraZeneca will become in the biologics and vaccine market with its new acquisition, many of MedImmune’s partners will be watching closely. A number of the projects and drugs AstraZeneca will acquire are the fruit of MedImmune’s active partnerships with other companies.
One biotechnology company that could be most directly affected by the buy-out is Inifinity Pharmaceuticals which signed an agreement for $70 million with MedImmune in August 2006 to jointly develop and commercialize novel small molecule cancer drugs targeting Hsp90 and the Hedgehog cell-signaling pathway, including IPI-504 which is in Phase I/II clinical trials for non-small cell lung cancer. On April 10 2007 Infinity Pharmaceuticals and MedImmune announced that IPI-504 had been well-tolerated in its ongoing Phase I studies and showed promising biological activity in a Phase I clinical trial in patients with relapsed, refractory Gleevec-resistant GIST. Preclinical studies of IPI-504 also showed it to inhibit Hsp90 potently and selectively, thereby killing cancer cells and that it had broad potential to treat certain cancers as both a single agent as well as in combination with existing anti-cancer drugs.The deal between MedImmune and Infinity is unlikely to be affected in the near future because at the time of signing it was made explicit that the collaboration would continue if either one of the companies was acquired. Shares of Infinity Pharmaceuticals also remained stable when AstraZeneca’s announced its acquisition of MedImmune.
Another company who will closely follow the acquisition is Critical Therapeutics which in 2003 agreed with MedImmune to jointly develop products directed towards HMGB1, including mouse monoclonal antibodies. Under the terms of the agreement, MedImmune was granted an exclusive worldwide license to Critical Therapeutics’ technology to make, use and sell therapeutic products, including small molecules and antibodies, that bind to, inhibit or inactivate HMGB1. MedImmune agreed to fund and participate in the research and clinical development of at least one HMGB1-inhibiting product for two indications. Critical Therapeutics received a $12.5 million as an upfront payment from MedImmune and was promised future undisclosed milestone payments and royalties on sales of any approved products resulting from the research.
Other companies who will be watching the future of MedImmune include: Biota Holdings Limited, which began a collaboration to develop new small-molecule therapies for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus in December 2005, receiving $5 million upfront payments and potentially $107.5 million for achieving certain clinical and regulatory milestones together with royalty on sales; Medarex, which began a collaboration with MedImmune in November 2004 to develop specific antibodies, one of which is MDX-1103 (now known as MEDI-545) a monoclonal antibody targeting interferon-alpha which MedImmune initiated phase 1 clinical trials for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus in October 2005 and for the treatment of psoriasis in March 2007; VasGene Therapeutics, which partnered with MedImmune in September 2004 to develop cancer-focused monoclonal antibodies targeting a novel member of a subfamily of receptor tyrosine kinases, EphB4, as well as its ligand, EphrinB2; and Avalon Pharmaceuticals which signed a deal with MedImmune in June 2005 to develop drugs for inflammatory diseases.
The acquisition of MedImmune has structural implications for Cambridge Antibody Technology which was acquired by AstraZeneca in May 2006 and is expected to be merged with MedImmune. The merger of the two companies could potentially affect both companies’ ongoing partnerships in the areas of infectious diseases, oncology, respiratory diseases and inflammation.