Vaccine developer AstraZeneca buys US drug company for 39 billion dollars

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has said it is buying a US drug company in a deal worth 39 billion US dollars (£29 billion).

Cambridge-based AstraZeneca, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine with the University of Oxford, said on Saturday the acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals had been given the green-light by directors, but still needs shareholder and regulatory approval.

The UK has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been found to protect against symptomatic disease in 70% of cases – with efficacy of up to 90% for those given a half then a full dose.

The vaccine can be stored between 2C and 8C, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which the NHS began rolling out on Tuesday, and which needs storage temperatures of minus 70C to minus 80C, but can be stored under normal refrigerated temperatures for five days.

Earlier this week the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s lead researcher Sarah Gilbert said it could be licensed for use in the elderly but there are no timings on when the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will approve the jab.

AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Alexion is expected to be completed in the third quarter of next year.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement: “Alexion has established itself as a leader in complement biology, bringing life-changing benefits to patients with rare diseases.

“This acquisition allows us to enhance our presence in immunology.

“We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues at Alexion so that we can together build on our combined expertise in immunology and precision medicines to drive innovation that delivers life-changing medicines for more patients.”

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