Did Daiichi Sankyo receive a buyout bid from AstraZeneca last year? According to the Japanese drugmaker, no.
In response to a story from Japanese publication Nikkei Business, which claimed Daiichi had turned away an AZ acquisition bid, Daiichi released a short statement on Thursday saying, "this is not the fact." It's still unclear, however, whether the two companies discussed a deal more informally.
No clarification was forthcoming from AstraZeneca. "We have nothing to share as we don’t comment on rumors or speculation," a spokeswoman said via email.
Before Daiichi's rebuttal, Nikkei's report sent shares skyward by as much as 13% and triggered a trading halt on the Nikkei exchange.
If AZ and Daiichi did talk takeover, it may have been Daiichi’s expertise in antibody drug conjugates that drew the pharma giant, Nikkei noted. These so-called “armed antibodies” link monoclonal antibodies to cell-killing agents and bear better disease-targeting capabilities. And the company earlier this year said it would plow ¥15 billion—about $135 million—into its domestic manufacturing ops to produce the medications.
Daiichi’s work in the space has sparked the interest of fellow immuno-oncology drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb, for one; the New Jersey company earlier this week inked a pact to test its Opdivo treatment alongside Daiichi’s DS-8201 in some breast and bladder cancers.
A Daiichi buy could have helped AstraZeneca toward its lofty $45 billion revenue goal for 2023; the U.K. company has pegged cancer medications to make up a large part of that total. Those ambitions recently took a hit when a combination of I-O drug Imfinzi and candidate tremelimumab failed to outperform chemo or solo Imfinzi in a key lung cancer trial.
Daiichi wouldn’t have come cheap, though. It boasts a market value of about $16 billion, Reuters noted.
AZ and Daiichi, meanwhile, already have a longstanding relationship that includes a marketing tie-up over constipation drug Movantik in the U.S. and a 2010 deal on Nexium in Japan.