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AZ: One Hire, Two Partnerships, More Layoffs

By Gil Roth | March 21, 2013

Annual strategy review leads to 2,300 more firings

AstraZeneca held its annual strategy review at its Investor Day briefing in New York. The company announced two new partnerships, one new hire, and thousands more layoffs.

AZ will fire 2,300 people in sales and administrative functions in the next three years. Combined with the restructuring announced earlier this week and another restructuring announced in February 2012, the "Phase 4" restructuring program will reduce AZ's headcount by approximately 5,050 people by 2016. The company plans to take $2.3 billion in one-time restructuring charges ($1.7 billion in cash costs), and expects to generate $800 million in annual savings by 2016.

During the strategy review, the company reiterated its R&D focus on three key therapeutic areas:
  • Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity
  • Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease
  • Oncology

In terms of its near-future prospects, AZ has high hopes for its Plavix-killer Brilinta, as well as its diabetes collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, its growth in emerging markets, its respiratory portfolio, and potential new launches in Japan. The company informed investors that, because of the sheer number of variables, it wouldn't be meaningful to provide a prediction for long-term revenues, but then noted that it should exceed $21.5 billion in 2018 revenues.

The company also took the opportunity to announce two new collaborations, with Karolinska Institutet and Moderna Therapeutics. The former will involve development of an Integrated Translational Research Cetner for CV and metabolic disease and regenerative disease, located in Stockholm, Sweden. The center will conduct preclinical and clinical studies "aimed at advancing the understanding of cardiovascular and metabolic disease pathophysiology and assessing new drug targets for AstraZeneca’s two biotech units, AstraZeneca Innovative Medicines and Early Development (iMed) and MedImmune." The center will run for an initial five-year term and will employ between 20 and 30 scientists. AZ will contribute as much as $20 million annually.

The Moderna Therapeutics deal is a $240 million (plus as much as $180 million in milestones, in addition to commercial royalties) pact for discovery, development and commercialization of messenger RNA therapeutics for the treatment of serious CV, metabolic and renal diseases, as well as cancer. AZ will have exclusive access to select any target of its choice in cardiometabolic diseases, as well as selected targets in oncology, for a period of as long as five years. AZ has the option to select as many as 40 drug products for clinical development.

AZ will try to execute its business strategy with a newly created role of executive vice president, Global Portfolio & Product Strategy. Filling that position (beginning in 2Q13) is Marc Dunoyer. Mr.Dunoyer will be responsible for driving business strategy, including business development, mergers and acquisitions, portfolio and product strategies. According to an AZ statement, "His most critical priorities will be to bolster the core growth platforms and therapy areas through well executed business development initiatives and leadership of internal efforts."

He joins AZ from GlaxoSmithKline, where he served as global head of Rare Diseases, and established an integrated global capability in treatments for rare diseases from R&D through to commercialization. He was also chairman of GSK Japan and a member of the corporate executive team.

“I’m delighted Marc is joining us in this pivotal new role aimed at bringing greater integration across our R&D, commercial and business development activities,” said Pascal Soriot, AZ's chief executive officer. “Marc is a first-rate leader with a proven track record in driving business growth and he brings to AstraZeneca a wealth of international operating experience, in particular in the important Asia region, combined with outstanding strategic skills.”

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