AstraZeneca snags $300M from Sanofi for rare cancer med amid cash-generating deal spree

AstraZeneca ($AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot has long argued that shedding some of the company's noncore businesses could help jump-start sales, adding cash to its reservoirs as it chases its lofty sales goals. Now, the British drugmaker is taking another step in that direction as it passes off one of its rare cancer drugs to Sanofi ($SNY), getting $300 million in the process.

AstraZeneca will get $165 million upfront and additional milestone payments of up to $135 million from Sanofi's Genzyme unit for Caprelsa, a drug that treats symptomatic medullary thyroid carcinoma. Genzyme will have rights to the med in 28 countries where it brought in $48 million last year, adding to its portfolio of rare disease drugs. If all goes according to plan, the companies expect to close the deal in the second half of 2015.

AstraZeneca's Luke Miels

The deal stands to benefit AstraZeneca, as it makes sure "patients continue to have access to this medicine while we sharpen our focus on key disease areas," Luke Miels, EVP of global product & portfolio strategy and corporate affairs, said in statement. It's a familiar story for AstraZeneca, which has worked hard over the past year to lighten its load and concentrate on high-growth areas. The company has already inked deals with Eli Lilly ($LLY) in Alzheimer's and snagged $200 million from Daiichi Sankyo, allowing the Japanese drugmaker to develop its treatment for opioid-induced constipation, Movantik. Earlier this month, AstraZeneca shipped out its gastrointestinal drug Entocort to Tillotts Pharma for $215 million.

But not all analysts are on board with the idea, with some arguing that relying on cash-generating deals could spell trouble for AstraZeneca farther down the line. As Reuters points out, the issue reached a boiling point in April when the drugmaker said it would take a $450 million windfall by letting Celgene ($CELG) develop its blood-cancer immunotherapy. At the time, Deutsche Bank analyst Richard Parkers told the news outlet that income generated from the deal was of "questionable sustainability."

Still, AstraZeneca is not alone in its slim-down plans. Other drugmakers including GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) have made similar moves, with GSK handing its thrombosis brand Arixtra and Fraxiparine to South Africa's Aspen in 2013 and J&J selling its Nucynta pain franchise to Depomed ($DEPO) in January. And AstraZeneca is getting in on the action, picking up Allergan's ($AGN) respiratory products Tudorza Pressair and Daliresp to gain ground in the field.

- read AstraZeneca's statement
- here's Sanofi's release (PDF)
- and here's the Reuters story

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