AstraZeneca selling stake in D.C. area biotech company

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AstraZeneca has agreed to divest its 26.7 percent ownership in Viela Bio, Inc. as part of the proposed acquisition of Viela by Horizon Therapeutics plc.

Viela is a publicly-traded company that came out of AstraZeneca’s former Medimmune business.

Nearly a decade ago, some research jobs were shifted to Medimmune operations in Washington, D.C. area as the company ended R&D in Delaware. Despite efforts by the State of Delaware to preserve the labs, the north Wilmington site was razed. AstraZeneca later retired the Medimmune name.

AstraZeneca is anticipating receiving cash proceeds of $760-$780 million upon closing. The divestment is expected to complete by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

The move does not impact the company’s financial guidance for 2020.

Viela, headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD, is a biotechnology company dedicated to discovering, developing, and commercializing novel treatments for autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases. Viela was founded in 2018 as a spinout from AstraZeneca, with clinical and pre-clinical projects from AstraZeneca’s inflammation and autoimmunity pipeline.

AstraZeneca has been focusing on heart, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases while shedding other holdings. It recently announced plans to acquire Alexion, a rare disease specialist, for $39 billion.

The British-based company is best known for partnering with Oxford University in the United Kingdom on a coronavirus vaccine currently being used in many nations.

The vaccine candidate could go before the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval this spring. The U.S. government has invested $1 billion in rolling out the vaccine that can be refrigerated rather than frozen, as is the case with the Moderna and Prizer/BioNTech vaccines.

AstraZeneca employs about 1,500 in logistics, manufacturing, and administrative functions in northern Delaware.

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