AstraZeneca Buys $2bn Fusion in Next-gen Cancer Drugs Move

AstraZeneca is set to buy Canadian drug developer Fusion Pharmaceuticals, as it targets the radiopharmaceutical cancer medicines market

AstraZeneca is set to buy Canadian drug developer Fusion Pharmaceuticals for US$2bn, as it seeks to invest in next-generation cancer treatments.

The deal will give the British-Swedish multinational pharma and biotech company greater sway in the radiopharmaceutical medicines market. Radiopharmaceuticals are radioactive drugs that work by targeting specific organs, tissues or cells, and can be used both for diagnosis and therapy.

Fusion is developing so-called ‘radioconjugates’, which – using molecules – deliver a radioactive isotope directly to cancer cells through precise targeting.

Fusion's most advanced therapy is currently in trial, and is designed to treat patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Castration-resistant prostate cancers are those that continue to spread even when testosterone levels in the body are reduced to very low levels. 

"Between 30 and 50% of patients with cancer today receive radiotherapy at some point during treatment, and the acquisition of Fusion furthers our ambition to transform this aspect of care with next-generation radioconjugates," said Susan Galbraith, EVP Oncology R&D at AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca is also working on other approaches to develop more-targeted cancer treatments, including antibody-drug conjugates and RCs.

Oncology sales make up third of AstraZeneca revenue 

AstraZeneca's oncology sales were $17.15bn in 2023, making up more than a third of its total revenue.

The Fusion deal follows a string of others in the past few months, including its recent $1bn acquisition of Amolyt Pharma. In late 2023, Since 2021, the market has been attracting growing investor interest, after Novartis showed that the drug extended survival for prostate cancer patients.

In March 2022, Novartis Pluvicto was approved by the FDA as the first targeted radiopharmaceutical therapy of its kind, and the category has seen a number of deals since, including Eli Lilly's $1.4bn acquisition of Point Biopharma and Bristol Myers Squibb's $4.1bn deal for RayzeBio. 

AstraZeneca, which is based at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in England has a portfolio of products in areas including oncology, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, infection, neuroscience, respiratory, and inflammation. It has been involved in developing the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

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