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AstraZeneca mulls MedImmune's integration

The board of Anglo-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca discusses how to integrate its recent acquisition, the US biotech company MedImmune, into the R&D arm of the organisation

The board of Anglo-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca (AZ) has been discussing how to integrate its recent acquisition, the US biotech company MedImmune, into the R&D arm of the organisation.

AZ is currently running R&D at the MedImmune separately, but to save costs it wants to coordinate the biotech's R&D with its own to ensure the groups are working on the most promising projects without duplicating efforts. AZ also wants to be involved earlier in marketing strategies applied to any drugs developed by MedImmune.

The AZ revised strategy is markedly different from that of Swiss-based Roche's organisational fit with biotech Genentech, which continues to operate as a separate arm. 

AZ has said it set up an executive R&D committee which will coordinate work between the two groups and encourage staff from each company to swap information regularly.

Executive vice-president of discovery research at AZ, Jan Lundberg, has said the company had initially looked at the Roche-Genentech model but thought the company could get more out of its MedImmune collaboration by sharing ideas cross-company. He added that MedImmune would retain its name, CEO David Mott and president of R&D James Young.

AZ has to maximise profits from its links with MedImmune, which cost the UK's second-largest company USD 15.6bn, which, like many other large pharmaceutical companies, has suffered research setbacks must plug holes in its drug pipeline and replace marketed drugs which will soon lose patent protection.

AZ says it will continue to concentrate its R&D on the development of small-molecule drugs, while MedImmune will focus on large-molecule drugs made from biological ingredients.

A new six-person R&D committee is now chaired by John Patterson, executive director of drug development at AZ. The committee will meet regularly to fix and update strategy for R&D, said the firm. The committee will also focus on which groups focus on which disease targets. AZ marketing leaders will also be an integral part of the R&D committee to help set marketing strategy for drugs at the earliest possible stage.

20th September 2007

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