AstraZeneca sells US rights to RSV therapy Synagis to Sobi for $1.5 billion upfront

AstraZeneca announced Tuesday an agreement to sell US rights to Synagis (palivizumab) to Swedish Orphan Biovitrum (Sobi) for a total upfront consideration of $1.5 billion, including $1 billion in cash. Under the deal for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) treatment, AstraZeneca will receive $500 million in ordinary shares of Sobi upon completion, representing an 8-percent stake in the drugmaker.

"We continue to streamline our portfolio, allowing AstraZeneca to allocate resources more effectively," remarked AstraZeneca, CEO Pascal Soriot. Meanwhile, Sobi chief executive Guido Oelkers said "I am excited about adding Synagis to our portfolio as it remains the only product preventing RSV infection in this vulnerable patient group."

As part of the agreement, around 130 AstraZeneca employees will transfer to Sobi, with the UK company also eligible to receive up to $470 million in sales-related payments for Synagis. The deal also gives Sobi the right to participate in AstraZeneca's share of US profits and losses related to the potential new RSV medicine MEDI8897.

AstraZeneca is developing MEDI8897, a single-dose extended half-life anti-RSV F monoclonal antibody, as part of a collaboration with Sanofi for the prevention of lower respiratory tract infection caused by RSV. Under the agreement with Sobi, AstraZeneca is eligible to receive a $175-million milestone payment following the submission of a marketing application to the FDA, as well as net payments of approximately $110 million related to profit and development-related milestones, and $60 million in non-contingent payments during 2019 to 2021.

AstraZeneca has an agreement with AbbVie for the distribution of Synagis outside the US, which the company noted will not be impacted by the proposed transaction with Sobi. According to Sobi, sales of Synagis for the 12 months ended June 30 were $269 million. The transaction is expected to complete at the start of 2019.

Last week, AstraZeneca agreed to sell rights to Alvesco (ciclesonide), Omnaris (ciclesonide) and Zetonna (ciclesonide) outside of the US to Covis Pharma for $350 million, with the UK drugmaker also recently signing a deal to sell European rights to Nexium (esomeprazole) to Grünenthal for an upfront payment of $700 million.

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