AstraZeneca: A star amongst pharmaceutical companies

Many of you may know the name AstraZeneca from the COVID-19 vaccines, but they have developed a lot more ground-breaking medicine since its establishment. AstraZeneca is an Anglo-Swedish biopharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, UK and it was formed in 1999 after the merger between Astra AB and Zeneca Group PLC. They focus on creating genuinely innovative medicines and improving access to them so that the greatest benefits to healthcare systems, patients, and societies can be achieved on a global scale. Their main research areas are oncology, biopharmaceuticals (including Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism, Respiratory & Immunology Therapies and Vaccines & Immune Therapies), and rare diseases. 

Let’s see what this star-studded company has created in the last 2 decades.  

Their most revunable drug as of 2022 is Tagrisso (generic name: osimertinib) which was approved in 2017. The drug treats patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that have certain abnormal epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) genes to stop the tumor from coming back after removal or diminish spreading. It reduced the risk of death by 51% in a Phase III trial. In addition, they have developed a new drug called ‘Enhertu’ that targets the currently incurable HER-2-positive breast cancer. Their ground-breaking results led to FDA approval in 2022, after it was shown that 72% of patients showed no disease progression after 12 months compared to 34.1% of those treated with the intravenous antibody drug TDM1, the current standard of care medication. Besides this, they have developed many more cancer drugs such as Lynparza (olaparib), a poly ADP ribose polymerase inhibitor used for the treatment of certain types of ovarian and breast cancers, and Imfinzi, which targets lung, liver, and biliary tract cancer. 


Other revolutionary drugs that have produced their highest revenues include: 

  • Nexium (esomeprazole): A proton pump inhibitor used to treat conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers.

  • Crestor (rosuvastatin): A statin medication used to lower cholesterol levels.

  • Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol): A combination inhaler used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  • Brilinta (ticagrelor): An antiplatelet medication used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with acute coronary syndrome.

  • Farxiga (dapagliflozin): A medication used to treat type 2 diabetes by helping the kidneys remove glucose from the bloodstream.


Current medications for rare diseases

Current medications for rare diseases in Phase III trials are acoramidis, anselamimab (CAEL-101), danicopan, and gefurulimab. Danicopan has already been filed for approval and is used to treat people with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria with clinically significant extravascular haemolysis. Acoramidis is set to be filed for approval in early 2024 and will be used to treat people with transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, a disease where amyloid will build up in the heart, causing stiffness of the heart muscle and ultimately leads to heart failure. In late 2024 it is expected that gefurulimab and anselamimab will be filed for approval. Gefurulimab targets generalized myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in voluntary muscles and anselamimab targets AL amyloidosis, a disease where immunoglobulin light chain protein accumulates on tissue and organs due to malignant or premalignant growth of identical lymphocytes or plasma cells. 

What’s next? 

In November 2021, AstraZeneca unveiled its new Discovery Center (DISC) in Cambridge, UK. The $1.2 billion state-of-the-art R&D facility includes advanced robotics, high-throughput screening, and AI-driven technology. It will support AstraZeneca’s focus on specialized and precision medicine and foster the discovery and development of next-generation therapeutics, including nucleotide-based, gene-editing, and cell therapies. As of November 9, 2023, there are 167 ongoing projects, with 14 new molecular entities in late stages of which 3 are under review. These projects include 71 cancer drugs, 10 drugs for cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic diseases, and 18 new drugs for respiratory & immunological diseases, which will be filed for approval somewhere in 2024. 

As you can see, AstraZeneca is a star when it comes to developing revolutionary drugs and they will hopefully continue to do so.