AstraZeneca to make up to $780m by selling Viela Bio stake

A near-$3 billion sale of AstraZeneca spin-out Viela Bio in Maryland will bring a tidy windfall to the Cambridge Big Biotech company.

Nasdaq heavyweight Horizon Therapeutics is paying cash for Viela at some $53 per share. Viela is also quoted on the US technology exchange. AstraZeneca had retained a 26.7 per cent stake in Viela when it sold the business and is taking the opportunity to cash in.

The Horizon-Viela deal should be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Viela was founded in 2018 as a spinout from AstraZeneca, with clinical and pre-clinical projects from AZ’s inflammation and autoimmunity pipeline. It is dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel treatments for autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases. 

The sale to Horizon follows just seven months after Viela scored its first FDA approval.

It has become lost in the fog of allegations and counter allegations in the AZ-EU row, but the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has just been granted a conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) in the European Union for active immunisation to prevent COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2, in individuals 18 years of age and older.

The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency based its positive opinion on data from a rolling review of trial data from the primary analysis of the Phase III programme led by the University of Oxford. 

Additional safety and efficacy data for the vaccine will continue to accumulate from ongoing clinical trials and is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

The CHMP recommends two doses of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, formerly AZD1222, to be administered at a four-to-12-week interval. This dosing regimen was shown in clinical trials to be safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, with no severe cases and no hospitalisations more than 14 days after the second dose.

AstraZeneca is working with the EU following the approval of a CMA for active immunisation to begin across member states.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer at AstraZeneca, said: “The approval underscores the value of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is not only effective and well tolerated, but also easy to administer and, importantly, protects fully against severe disease and hospitalisations.

“We are deeply grateful to Oxford University, participants in the clinical trials and AstraZeneca colleagues for their unwavering commitment to providing this lifesaving vaccine to millions of Europeans.”

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