Spate of licensing deals for non-core products as firm further tightens R&D focus

Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZ) is offloading several products to other companies, in an ongoing attempt to concentrate its efforts on priority areas of respiratory disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Allergan has signed a deal with AZ’s biological drugs arm, MedImmune, for the global rights to MEDI2070. This anti-inflammatory monoclonal antibody is in Phase II clinical trials for moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease, and about to begin a Phase II study for ulcerative colitis.

Allergan will pay AZ $250 million (£204 million) up front for an exclusive, worldwide licence to develop and commercialise the medicine. The deal includes up to $1.3 billion in performance-based milestone payments and royalties on any eventual sales.

US firm Insmed will pay $30 million up front for global exclusive rights to AZD7986. This oral inhibitor of dipeptidyl peptidase I is in development to treat pulmonary diseases like non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis. AZ will receive up to $120 million in milestone payments plus royalties if the drug makes it to market.

AZ is also thinning its portfolio of marketed products. Aralez Pharmaceuticals will pay $175 million for US rights to branded generic Toprol-XL (metoprolol succinate) – a beta-blocker used to control high blood pressure, angina and heart failure. The deal, which also covers an authorised generic version marketed by Par Pharmaceuticals, includes up to $48 million in milestone payments, plus royalties.

A fourth deal, with Johnson & Johnson affiliate Cilag, sees AZ divesting the rights to Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide) outside the US for $330 million. The steroid nasal spray is used to treat allergic and non-allergic nasal inflammation as well as nasal polyps.