AstraZeneca to acquire rare disease specialist in $39 billion deal


Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. agreed to be acquired by AstraZeneca in a cash and stock deal valued at  $39 billion.

AstraZeneca, based in the United Kingdom,  has its U.S. headquarters near Wilmington. Alexion is based in Boston.

AstraZeneca has been working to build its drug pipeline after its best-sellers lost patent protection.

The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the acquisition. Subject to receipt of regulatory clearances and approval by shareholders of both companies, the acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021  and upon completion, Alexion shareholders will own 15 percent of the combined company.

Pascal Soriot,  CEO of  AstraZeneca, said: “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.”


Ludwig Hantson, CEO  Alexion, said: “For nearly 30 years Alexion has worked to develop and deliver transformative medicines to patients around the world with rare and devastating diseases. I am incredibly proud of what our organization has accomplished and am grateful to our employees for their contributions. This transaction marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Alexion. We bring to AstraZeneca a strong portfolio, innovative rare disease pipeline, a talented global workforce and strong manufacturing capabilities in biologics. We remain committed to continuing to serve the patients who rely on our medicines and firmly believe the combined organization will be well-positioned to accelerate innovation and deliver enhanced value for our shareholders, patients, and the rare disease communities.”

AstraZeneca has built a growing scientific presence in oncology, and in cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, and respiratory diseases, with a focus on organ protection. More recently, AstraZeneca has increased its efforts in immunology research and the development of medicines for immune-mediated diseases.

 Combining AstraZeneca’s capabilities in precision medicine and Alexion’s expertise in rare-disease development and commercialization will enable the new company to develop a portfolio of medicines addressing the large unmet needs of patients suffering from rare diseases, a release stated.

AstraZeneca intends to establish Boston as its headquarters for rare diseases, capitalizing on talent in the greater Boston area.

Alexion has been growing over the last few years, with revenues of $5 billion in 2019, up 21 percent.

Rare diseases is a high-growth therapy area with rapid innovation and significant unmet medical need. The global rare disease market is forecasted to grow by a low double-digit percentage in the future. 

AstraZeneca intends to build on its geographical footprint and extensive emerging markets presence to accelerate the worldwide expansion of Alexion’s portfolio.

The combined company is expected to deliver double-digit average annual revenue growth through 2025.

AstraZeneca expects to generate significant value from the acquisition by extending Alexion’s commercial reach through leveraging AstraZeneca’s global presence and accelerating the development of Alexion’s pipeline.

The acquisition also strengthens AstraZeneca’s cash-flow generation, providing additional flexibility to reinvest in research and development, and rapid debt reduction, with an ambition to increase the dividend.

AstraZeneca has been in the news with a potential vaccine for coronavirus.