AstraZeneca (AZ) has announced plans to acquire Alexion for approximately $39bn, gaining an ‘innovative’ rare disease pipeline in the process.

Alexion’s portfolio of rare disease meds includes Soliris (eculizumab), a first-in-class anti-complement component 5 (C5) monoclonal antibody.

This drug is approved for the treatment of patients with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH), atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome, generalized myasthenia gravis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.

In addition, Alexion recently launched Ultomiris (ravulizumab), a second-generation C5 monoclonal antibody.

AZ said in a statement that it will work with Alexion’s research and development team to build on the latter company’s pipeline of 11 molecules currently in clinical development.

The British drugmaker added that the acquisition will add a new technology platform to its own capabilities.

“We bring to AstraZeneca a strong portfolio, innovative rare disease pipeline, a talented global workforce and strong manufacturing capabilities in biologics,” said Ludwig Hantson, chief executive officer of Alexion.

“We remain committed to continuing to serve the patients who rely on our medicines and firmly believe the combined organisation will be well positioned to accelerate innovation and deliver enhanced value for our shareholders, patients and the rare disease communities,” he added.

Alexion is focused on novel molecules and targets in the complement cascade, which plays a crucial role in a number of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases across multiple therapy areas.

AZ hopes that by combining its own expertise in precision medicine with Alexion’s specialist rare disease knowledge, it can develop a portfolio of medicines addressing a range of rare diseases.

Both companies’ boards of directors have unanimously approved the acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021, dependent on regulatory clearances and approval of shareholders.

"Alexion has established itself as a leader in complement biology, bringing life-changing benefits to patients with rare diseases. This acquisition allows us to enhance our presence in immunology,” said Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of AZ.

“We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues at Alexion so that we can together build on our combined expertise in immunology and precision medicines to drive innovation that delivers life-changing medicines for more patients,” he added.