Troubled AstraZeneca models a new industry R&D tie-up as setbacks mount

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca ($AZN) watchers gleaned a few new nuggets of information on the company's turnaround plans as CEO Pascal Soriot revealed to the Financial Times that he's exploring another big drug R&D tie-up along the lines of two collaborations struck with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Amgen ($AMGN). And he carefully reiterated the theme that there's no magic wand in hand to fix what's wrong at the company. The turnaround will be slow and often painful--as recent clinical setbacks have made all too clear.

AstraZeneca struck deals to collaborate with Bristol-Myers on diabetes and followed up with a deal to work with Amgen on anti-inflammatory drugs. They're part of a flurry of new acquisitions and licensing deals aimed to resurrect one of the worst pipelines in the industry. Now Soriot says he is looking at another major pact that will help share risk on a slate of treatments or perhaps a whole disease field.

"We need to be absolutely focused... on building best possible collaborations," he told the FT. "Diversification is a distraction from the focus on science." 

But there are a lot of distractions, including back-to-back failures for Onglyza and fostamatinib as analysts wait to hear some good news for a change. The company has been downgraded precisely because it's increasingly clear that Soriot's plans, which include building a $500 million headquarters and R&D hub in Cambridge, U.K., will take years to pay off. That collision sparked a little philosophical reflection on Soriot's part. 

"This journey will not be smooth," Soriot noted, repeating some recent remarks to Reuters. "We are executing, but with ups and downs ... People expect change immediately but the cycles are very long in our industry. You can only put your head down."

- here's the feature from the Financial Times

Special Report: Pascal Soriot - The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2013