AstraZeneca pulling out all stops in R&D deal frenzy

AstraZeneca R&D chief Martin Mackay isn't going to let something like the sudden departure of the CEO interfere with his busy deal-making plans. In an interview with the Financial Times, he trotted out a roster of activities on his to-do list, ranging from in-licensing more programs, buying small biotechs, partnering with rivals and possibly coming up with a few risk-sharing arrangements with private equity.

"I know we are doing the right things," insisted Mackay. Interestingly, he appears intent on following the example of Eli Lilly ($LLY), which did an R&D deal with Quintiles in which the big CRO agreed to jointly finance drug development work in return for a share of the revenue.

Mackay is under intense pressure to reverse the fallout that's resulted from a series of pipeline setbacks which have left the pharma company ($AZN) in dire shape as it faces the patent cliff. That scenario forced David Brennan from the top spot. But Mackay says the company is in a good position to execute on deals after culling out 40% of the projects in the pipeline since his arrival in 2010. He's still interested in spinning off assets. And he's hired 31 of the top 50 managers in R&D from outside developers.

Mackay wants to be judged by the results he gets over the next 6 months in drug development and approvals, new deals and a beefed up pipeline. His one key standard for success: Getting molecules "across the goal line."

In drug development, of course, 6 months is nothing. But it's plenty of time to forge new pacts. And that should encourage prospective partners holding on to some valuable assets.  

- here's the article from the Financial Times