AstraZeneca PLC discovers, develops, manufactures, and markets prescription pharmaceuticals in the areas of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neuroscience, oncology, respiratory and inflammation, and infection worldwide. Its products include Arimidex for hormonal breast cancer; Crestor that provides treatment for managing cholesterol levels; Nexium for acid-related diseases; Seroquel, an atypical anti-psychotic therapy for treating schizophrenia and bipolar mania; and Symbicort for the maintenance treatment of asthma in patients. The company also engages in the research, development, manufacture, and marketing of medical devices and implants for use in urology, surgery, and odontology. In addition, it develops and manages out-patient cancer centers in the United States. AstraZeneca markets its products to primary care and specialist physicians, as well as to other healthcare professionals, governments, and healthcare buying groups through sales and marketing network, local marketing companies, distributors, or local representative offices. It has strategic alliances with AtheroGenics, Inc.; Pozen, Inc.; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc; KuDOS Pharmaceuticals Limited; WuXi Pharmatech Co., Ltd; and ChemBridge; and a strategic partnership with Peking University Third Hospital. The company also has collaborations with Palatin Technologies, Inc.; Schering AG; Protherics PLC; Targacept, Inc.; Abgenix; Dyax Corp.; Abbott Laboratories; BioFocus DPI; Silence Therapeutics plc; Argenta Discovery Limited; Effector Cell Institute; Cancer Research Technology Limited; Beatson Institute for Cancer Research; and Myriad Genetics, Inc. It has an agreement with Biovator AB to co-operate on the development of an in vitro-test that identifies potential allergens. AstraZeneca was founded in 1992. It was formerly known as Zeneca Group PLC and changed its name to AstraZeneca PLC in 1999. The company is headquartered in London, the United Kingdom.
AstraZeneca Shrugs Off Pipeline Concerns
Tuesday November 20, 2:30 pm ET
By Jennifer Sterling, AP Business Writer
AstraZeneca R&D Head Asserts That Beefed-Up Pipeline Will Offset Wall Street's Growth Fears
AstraZeneca is one of several branded pharmaceutical companies struggling to fend off competition from cheaper, generic drugs. The stock, which hit a new year-low of $43.76 on Tuesday, is down nearly 16 percent for the year.
But Patterson insists the company's improved research and development strategy will offset the effect of generics, and points to vaccine and biotech drug candidates acquired in AstraZeneca's June takeover of MedImmune Inc.
However, for the most part, analysts say their main concern is the declining performance of the company's top-selling drugs. Credit Suisse on Tuesday lowered its price target on AstraZeneca shares to 23.75 pounds ($48.74) from 26.25 pounds ($53.87), due in part to a recent patent challenge facing Crestor as well as slowing growth in the U.K.
Bear Stearns analyst Alexandra Hauber said in a recent note to investors that Crestor's market share has been flat in the slowing cholesterol market.
"The key issue in coming weeks is whether Crestor's prescriptions can accelerate on the back of the new atherosclerosis label," she said. Earlier this month, the FDA approved Crestor for a new use against an artery disease that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
In addition to generic competition, AstraZeneca has faced the loss of late-stage drug candidates in recent years. Most recently, its compound ZD4054 for prostate cancer failed a midstage study. The Phase III drug setbacks, in particular, compelled AstraZeneca to create an R&D strategy focused on speed, Patterson said.
"We realized our pipeline just wasn't good enough," he said. "We had to turn things around."
An internal speed initiative was launched in October to push medicines through development faster, by setting time targets for each phase of development, Patterson added.
Among other new priorities, the drugmaker has placed biologics, diabetes, cancer and vaccine treatment candidates at the forefront. AstraZeneca has also sought to maximize uses for blockbuster products like Crestor and anti-psychotic Seroquel, which also recently received expanded approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
And like other branded drugmakers, AstraZeneca has beefed up its pipeline through acquisitions. Helped by the purchase of nasal spray flu vaccine maker MedImmune, the company now has eight new drugs in late-stage development, double the number at the start of 2007. The MedImmune deal instantly boosted AstraZeneca's proportion of biotechnology drugs in development to 27 percent from just 7 percent, and gave it entry to the coveted vaccine space.
However, the deal only added one late-stage drug candidate to AstraZeneca's pipeline -- motavizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody designed to prevent serious lower respiratory tract disease.
Patterson, nonetheless, brushes off criticism from analysts who have called the pipeline thin.
"I believe we're going to prove analysts wrong. They're entitled to their opinion of our pipeline, but it's hard to say AstraZeneca's pipeline is empty," he said. "No doubt about it, we will be bringing a stream of medicines to market that will be valuable and differentiated, and good for patients and AstraZeneca."
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