Two of AstraZeneca's ($AZN) key investigational drugs came through in mid-stage studies, providing some ballast for the drugmaker as it boasts the value of its pipeline in an effort to ward off an unwelcome bid by Pfizer ($PFE)--or at least drive up the asking price.
Mavrilimumab, a rheumatoid arthritis drug developed by AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, met its primary endpoints in a 326-patient Phase IIb trial, the company said, rapidly improving symptoms like disability, pain and fatigue. Separately, the lupus-treating sifalimumab, also a MedImmune product, succeeded in a Phase II study, meeting its primary endpoint of patient response.
The results come a week after AstraZeneca surprised investors and analysts with some high-dollar projections for its in-development drugs, saying its pipeline can deliver "risk-adjusted" gross sales of $23 billion a year. Removing that caveat, the company believes it's sitting on $63 billion of potential revenue.
AstraZeneca hasn't set out sales projections for mavrilimumab, but it expects a combination of sifalimumab and the Phase I anifrolumab to bring in $1 billion a year.
Meanwhile, the U.K. drugmaker has waived off two 12-figure bids from would-be acquirer Pfizer, arguing that the latest, valued north of $106 billion, is "an opportunistic attempt to acquire a transformed AstraZeneca, without reflecting the value of its exciting pipeline."
|AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot|
And while the company has been steadfast in opposition to Pfizer's advances, CEO Pascal Soriot has said the company cannot rule out eventually accepting a bid. Pfizer is widely expected to come back with a sweeter offer in the coming weeks, and whether that figure will match AstraZeneca's pipeline excitement remains to be seen.
In the meantime, MedImmune--one of the main objects of Pfizer's interest--is using its latest data release to push its capabilities in monoclonal antibody development.
"Compelling Phase II data from two of our molecules--mavrilimumab for rheumatoid arthritis and sifalimumab for systemic lupus--further confirm our commitment to bringing new medicines to patients as quickly as possible," Executive Vice President Bahija Jallal said in a statement.
- read the statement