AstraZeneca buys Canadian cancer treatment firm for close to £2 billion

By Staff

The London-listed firm said the deal for Fusion Pharmaceuticals would be a “major step forward” in Astra’s plan to help replace chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has agreed to purchase Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian company in a deal worth £1.9 billion.

Fusion Pharmaceuticals is developing a promising new drug to treat prostate cancer. AstraZeneca believes this acquisition will be a “major step forward” in their plan to replace traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Fusion’s innovative “next-generation radioconjugates” will allow doctors to target cancer cells more accurately than before. This means less damage to healthy cells nearby and the ability to treat tumours that were previously unreachable by conventional methods.

The technology Fusion uses is based on a version of the chemical element actinium, known as actinium-225. This can produce alpha particles which disrupt cancer cell DNA, helping to kill them off.

Unlike most radiation therapies, alpha particles only travel short distances up to three cells away. This means they can destroy tumours more selectively without causing much harm to healthy cells. However, there is a downside; very little actinium-225 is produced globally.

Andrew Robertson, a scientist at the University of British Columbia, says there’s only enough to treat a few thousand patients each year. Most of the actinium-225 available comes from old nuclear weapons material, according to an article Dr Robertson wrote in 2019.

Dr John Valliant, who leads Fusion, said: “This acquisition combines Fusion’s expertise and capabilities in radioconjugates, including our industry-leading radiopharmaceutical R&D, pipeline, manufacturing and actinium-225 supply chain, with AstraZeneca’s leadership in small molecules and biologics engineering to develop novel radioconjugates.”

The deal between the companies will be worth 2.0 billion dollars (£1.6 billion) upfront, with a further 400 million dollars (£315 million) possible if certain conditions are met.

Susan Galbraith, who is in charge of cancer research at AstraZeneca, said: “Between 30% and 50% of patients with cancer today receive radiotherapy at some point during treatment, and the acquisition of Fusion furthers our ambition to transform this aspect of care with next-generation radioconjugates.”

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