AstraZeneca’s chief financial officer Jonathan Symonds will tell a meeting to showcase its R&D pipeline in London today that the company would shrug of generic competition to some of its top products in the coming years and post growth in line with the overall pharmaceutical market.

He will also promise an increase in R&D investment at AstraZeneca – currently the fifth-largest drugmaker in the world – through a combination of ‘acquisition, licensing and collaboration’, according to a statement issued this morning.

Expanding indications for current big sellers, such as respiratory drug Symbicort (formoterol and budesonide), Seroquel (quetiapine) for schizophrenia and cholesterol-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin) would continue to drive sales growth over the next five years, while cost-cutting will lead to earnings growth ahead of sales, said AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan, who took up the post earlier this year.

The company’s reliance on these top products has grown more acute in recent months after disappointments in late-stage development products, most recently the abandonment of Galida (tesaglitazar) for diabetes. AstraZeneca has been steadily buying up companies and products to boost its pipeline.

AstraZeneca bought US biotech player KuDOS Pharmaceuticals for £121 million last year, licensed AGI-1067 for atherosclerosis from AtheroGenics in a deal valued at up to $1 billion, and also agreed a deal worth £173 million with US firm Targacept to develop a series of compounds for Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and other central nervous system disorders. It also paid £195 million for a septic shock drug, CytoFab, from Protherics, and most recently bought joint rights to Abraxis Bioscience's Abraxane cancer therapy for £112 million.

At present, AstraZeneca has just five new active substances in Phase III: AGI-1067 for atherosclerosis; AZD6140 for arterial thrombosis; a compound for stroke called NXY-059; Zactima (ZD6474) for non-small cell lung cancer; and AZD2171 for lung and colorectal cancers.

Meanwhile, AZ plans to revamp its research and development activities to boost productivity, said Brennan, and he reiterated that the group plans to build a ‘major presence’ in biologic drugs, a process that was kick-started by its $1.3 billion offer to buy UK biotech unit Cambridge Antibody Technology last month.