AstraZeneca Company Profile, as CEO Soriot Lands pay Deal

As it's announced AstraZeneca's CEO Pascal Soriot's package could rise by as much as US$24mn we explore the history of the UK's most valuable business

AstraZeneca is the biggest UK-based business, with a market capitalisation of US$228bn. 

This week the Anglo-Swedish company approved a pay policy that will see CEO Pascal Soriot's package rise by as much as US$24mn. This will take his maximum annual bonus for 2024 to three times his base salary, and make him eligible for long-term performance-based share awards worth as much as 8.5 times his salary.

It makes Soriot one of the best-paid executives among London's blue-chip FTSE 100 companies.

AstraZeneca says the pay policy changes are necessary to increase competitiveness against its European peers and to “recognise leadership's critical role in achieving its long-term targets”.

In the wake of the pay deal, we take a look at AstraZeneca – its history and some of the medical milestones it has achieved in that time.

The history of AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca, was founded in 1999, through the merger of Astra AB and Zeneca Group.

Astra AB was a Swedish pharmaceutical company that was founded in 1913 by pharmacist Gustaf Dyrssen. Initially it produced dental and veterinary products, but later shifted focus to pharmaceuticals. 

In the 1950s, Astra expanded globally, entering the US market in the 1980s. Among its most important medicines were Nexium (esomeprazole), a proton-pump inhibitor used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers, and Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol), a combination inhaler used to manage asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Zeneca Group was established in 1993 through the demerger of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which was focused on pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and specialty chemicals. 

Its roots go back to 1923, when ICI formed its pharmaceutical division, and Zeneca grew through a series of acquisitions and research breakthroughs – notably cancer treatments including tamoxifen, used in the treatment of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer,  and Casodex (bicalutamide), used to treat prostate cancer.

The merger between Astra AB and Zeneca

The $33bn merger between the two companies in 1999 was a strategic move to create a stronger global presence and to bolster research and development capabilities. 

Astra's expertise in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal drugs was complemented by Zeneca's strengths in oncology and respiratory medicines, and the merger has seen AstraZeneca go on to become a leader in innovative healthcare solutions.

Some of AstraZeneca’s landmark treatments since 1999
  • ‘Blockbuster drugs Crestor (rosuvastatin) for cholesterol management, Seroquel (quetiapine) for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and Nexium (esomeprazole) for acid reflux.
  • Important lung cancer treatments, such as Iressa (gefitinib), Faslodex (fulvestrant) and Tagrisso (osimertinib).
  • Extensive R&D in areas such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory conditions and oncology.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

One of AstraZeneca’s most notable medical achievement was partnering with the University of Oxford to develop a COVID-19 vaccine known as AZD1222, or the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The company’s role in this was pivotal, and included funding, manufacturing and distributing the vaccine. It also played a key role in conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals, and scaling up production to meet global demand. 

The vaccine was based on a viral vector platform, a technique that uses a modified virus – or vector virus – as a treatment delivery mechanism.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for emergency use in January 2021, shortly after approval was received by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines (both December 2020).

AstraZeneca provided the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic, and collaborated with various organisations to ensure equitable access to vaccines globally.

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