AstraZeneca plans new US R&D hub as revenues rocket

by Stephen Riddle

AstraZeneca has revealed plans to set up a new strategic R&D hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts as it reported a massive increase in first-quarter revenues, driven by COVID-19 and oncology drugs and heart failure therapy Farxiga.

The new site will be at Kendall Square and will serve as the new corporate headquarters for Alexion – which is currently based across the Charles River in Boston’s Seaport District – as well as housing around 1,500 R&D staff from AZ and Alexion in a new purpose-built space.

The site is expected to be completed in 2026 and according to AZ will benefit from its close   proximity to several major academic, pharma and biotech institutions, providing access to “future talent”.

Boston and Cambridge are a life sciences hotspot in the US, home to more than 1,000 R&D-based biotechnology companies, with Kendall Square having the greatest density.

News of the investment comes shortly after AZ completed its new headquarters across the Atlantic in Cambridge in the UK, which was built at a cost of around $1.3 billion, three times the original estimate when the project was announced in 2013.

“Today’s announcement is a milestone moment following the acquisition of Alexion in July 2021,” said AZ chief executive Pascal Soriot as the company reported first-quarter sales up 60% to $11.4 billion.

“Our combined company has already successfully leveraged internal scientific synergies, and this move will act as a catalyst for even more external collaboration and innovation,” he added.

The healthy sales increase was bolstered by the timing of orders for AZ’s COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria, which made $1.1 billion in the quarter but is expected to make less of a contribution in the remainder of the year.

Another $469 million from Evusheld (tixagevimab and cilgavimab), the first drug to be authorised for prevention of COVID-19 infections, although that cam in slightly below analyst expectations.

Soriot also highlighted to performance of Farxiga (dapagliflozin), AZ’s SGLT2 inhibit for diabetes, heart failure and chronic kidney disease, which made $1 billion in the quarter, with a higher-than-predicted rise of 60% over the same period of 2021.

AZ’s oncology franchise also put in a good showing, collectively rising 14% to $3.4 billion, with highly-anticipated new HER2 drug Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan) almost doubling to $76 million in the quarter, with potential new indications promising to accelerate growth further.

There was a 20% gain for Alexion’s Ultomiris (ravulizumab) to $419 million, welcome news as the drug is a successor to successor to Soliris (eculizumab) which slipped 5% to $990 million.

Ultomiris has just become the first and only long-acting C5 inhibitor approved for generalised myasthenia gravis in the US.

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