AstraZeneca outlines pricey licensing strategy

AstraZeneca faces a critical challenge in gaining new approvals ahead of the patent cliff that's looming for some of its biggest revenue generators. And AZ's business development chief tells Bloomberg that the company plans to aggressively partner on late-stage drug programs to beat the coming onslaught of generics.

"We're working together to get more out of sharing the risk and sharing the cost," said Shaun Grady, vice president of corporate business development. "We're looking across the spectrum, but our focus is late-stage assets. That's where we can make the most difference with the business shape going forward right now."

Grady wasn't offering a lot of details about the company's partnership focus. But he did say that AZ would stick with its core diseases: cancer, respiratory illnesses and mental illness. If past is prologue, AZ's recent decision to commit up to $1.24 billion to license in a Targacept depression therapy indicates that the pharma company is committing significant resources to its late-stage strategy. At least one more licensing deal is expected in the next few weeks. And Grady points to partnerships with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck as an indication of the company's willingness to team up with some of its biggest competitors.

- here's the story from Bloomberg