Big news for AstraZeneca (AZN) comes in the form of its recent collaboration with Conformetrix.
The main parameters of the deal involve Conformetrix's proprietary NMR-based technology being "applied across AstraZeneca's pre-clinical therapeutic pipeline to enhance lead discovery and hit identification." Essentially what this means is that the unique technology that has been developed by Conformetrix will be utilized by AstraZeneca to improve the successful outcomes of its drug discovery programs.
This is a deal that works in the favor of both companies. Conformetrix is placed in a position where it has the opportunity to collaborate with one of the big names in the field. The deal also goes a long way towards validating the benefits and success of its technology. And, of course, the monetary benefits are many and varied. AstraZeneca also benefits in that the technology offered by Conformetrix will aid the company in its drug research efforts and in improving its preclinical pipeline in the future and could potentially lead to even more cures being found, and, consequentially, even more profits being made.
The partnership, which is projected to last for a period of two years, is not the first alliance that AstraZeneca has recently chosen to form. The company also formed an alliance with Amgen (AMGN) in order to work together on inflammatory disease drugs. However, this was declared by the AstraZeneca head of global research and development to not be enough, hence the new focus on the preclinical pipeline. This appears to be part of the new strategy being employed by the company to recoup its losses. It's choosing to get involved in small partnerships rather than large mergers.
The losses mentioned are due in large part to the development of generic drugs that have put several of AstraZeneca's drugs out of the running. In order to make up for the losses experienced due to the introduction of these generics, AstraZeneca has made the decision to form partnerships such as the aforementioned ones with Amgen and Conformetrix.
One of AstraZeneca's competitors, Merck (MRK), has also been in the news recently for creating an alliance of some benefit to itself. Merck and Endocyte (ECYT) have recently decided to collaborate on the cancer candidate vintafolide (EC145) therapy that has been developed by Endocyte and that is currently undergoing Phase 3 trials. As the drug appears promising, the collaboration could mean great things for both companies in the future.
While some companies are forming collaborations others are selling off its various subdivisions. Pfizer (PFE) is one such company that feels the need to get rid of the deadweight of subsidiaries that are no longer needed or necessary. In recent news, it was made clear that Pfizer intends to sell its baby formula business in the very near future. There are a number of other companies fighting for the purchase, but at present it seems that Nestlé is the most likely candidate.
Questions have been raised by several investors regarding the likely success of AstraZeneca's strategy, but so far it seems to be making a difference. AstraZeneca's CEO has insisted on several different occasions that positive restructuring in the company can occur without the need for a huge merger or enormous deal to act as the catalyst for the change. However, the company's head has been under a lot of pressure from investors of late. The general perception is that the company, as well as its leader, is underperforming and that change is needed. The company has been trading at a far lower rate than it should and there have been calls to replace the CEO. The question is whether or not the strategy employed by the company is good enough to achieve these changes or if a different approach would be more beneficial. In terms of the effects that the approach (or lack thereof) may have in the future: only time will tell.
It must not be forgotten that this is not the only news from AstraZeneca and that it is still a fully functioning pharmaceutical company. Just recently, the company released the competitively priced blood pressure drug, Dutoprol. The drug only needs to be taken once a day and is a convenient alternative for most high blood pressure sufferers. AstraZeneca also took the unorthodox approach of launching the drug at the wholesale acquisition price directly to the consumer population, meaning that it competes well in terms of price against similar medications. The price of $15.90 stands with or without medical coverage. The drug is projected to generate enormous sales, which could mean big things for the company.
Earlier this year, AstraZeneca also won a lawsuit that allowed it to continue producing the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, despite the fact that competitors insisted that the patent had expired. This means that AstraZeneca will have yet another successful drug going forward, at least until the patent expires in 2017.
Other drug companies have been less fortunate in the legal field. Take GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), for instance, which reached a settlement in the state of Idaho. The lawsuit was based on the claim that GSK were guilty of drug overpricing in direct contravention to the state of Idaho's Medicaid laws and regulations. In total, GSK was required to pay an amount of $2.6 million to the state. This is not the first settlement from a drug company that Idaho has successfully managed to claim in recent months.
Novartis (NVS), another competitor, although not yet facing a lawsuit, is experiencing some difficulties with its drug Gilenya. Recently a patient on the drug developed a rare and dangerous brain disease, and, although the development of the disease is at the very least partially attributable to the fact that the patient previously had taken Tysabri, the role of Gilenya cannot be overlooked.
AstraZeneca certainly is not making any big moves, but its also not dealing with any consequences from past mistakes. The new partnerships are encouraging, as is the success of Dutoprol. The future will tell if this is going to be enough to compete in an industry like pharmaceuticals.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.