Pfizer buys biotech Seagen for $43 billion


A wall advertisement touts Pfizer's innovations, in Thessaloniki, Greece, October 12, 2021.

After having accumulated billions thanks to the sales of vaccines against Covid-19, it’s time to spend at Pfizer. The pharmaceutical group announced, Monday, March 13, the conclusion of an agreement for the acquisition of its American compatriot Seagen for an amount of 43 billion dollars (40.1 billion euros). The rumor of negotiations between the two laboratories had been buzzing for several weeks. With this operation, the industrialist signs its largest acquisition since the takeover of Wyeth for $68 billion in 2009.

“We acquire the goose with the golden eggs”, rejoiced Albert Bourla, the boss of Pfizer. Founded in 1997, Seagen specializes in the research and development of cancer treatments. In full growth, the company achieved 2 billion dollars in turnover in 2022, and forecasts an increase in sales of 12% for the year 2023. The biotech based in Bothell, in the State of Washington, is particularly renowned for its expertise in conjugated antibodies.

This promising technology, whose first clinical research dates back to the 1980s, is based on the combination of an antibody and chemotherapy. Designed to specifically target the cancer cell, the antibody sneaks up to the tumor and attaches to the surface of the tumor. Like a Trojan horse, it then releases a dose of chemotherapy that will destroy the diseased cell. Unlike conventional chemotherapies, the drug is programmed to attack only the tumour, thus avoiding destroying healthy cells around it.

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Oncology, privileged territory of Big Pharma

A dozen treatments using this technology are, to date, approved by the American health authority, four of which are marketed by biotech. “The addition of ADC technology from world-leading Seagen will position us at the forefront of innovative cancer care, and strongly complements our existing portfolio in solid tumors and hematological malignancies. »observes Chris Boshoff, director of development oncology and rare diseases at Pfizer.

The strengthening of Pfizer in cancer is no coincidence. Oncology has for several years become the preferred hunting ground of Big Pharma. In 2021, sales of cancer drugs weighed more than 185 billion dollars (around 182 billion euros) worldwide, according to health data specialist IQVIA. They are expected to cross the $300 billion mark by 2026.

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