Weekly Business Saga

Astrazeneca: The Weapon against Covid-19

Authored by Ayush Verma, Student at RMLNLU

AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biotechnology company formed after the merger of Swedish Astra AB and British Zeneca Group in 1999. Its headquarters are located in Cambridge, England. It mainly focuses on discovery, development and commercialisation of medicines in six areas: Cardiovascular, Gastrointestinal, Infection, Neuroscience, Oncology, and Respiratory & Inflammation. Recently, it has partnered with Oxford to develop COVID-19 vaccine which is being sold as Vaxzevria and Covishield in several countries. 

How was it formed?

The merger of Astra AB and Zeneca Group was announced in 1998, and the shares held by their shareholders were 46.5% and 53.5, respectively. Following their merger, the company primarily focused on five research areas – cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, oncology and local and general anaesthesia which still fall in the company’s priority list.


After the creation, its first acquisition came in 2005 when it acquired kuDOS Pharmaceuticals, a UK based Biotech company for 120 million Euros. A year later, it acquired UK-based Cambridge Antibody Technology which it merged with MedImmune, whose drug development pipeline it acquired in 2007 for 15.2 Bn USD; to make a dedicated global biologics organisation. One of its recent acquisitions is of the US Biotechnology firm Alexion Pharmaceuticals which it acquired for $39 Bn, to further treatment for blood disorders. Its other acquisitions include:

  1. Arrow Therapeutics
  2. Novexel Corp
  3. Guangdong BeiKang Pharmaceutical Company
  4. Ardea Biosciences
  5. Amylin Pharmaceuticals
  6. Spirogen
  7. Pearl Therapeutics
  8. Omthera Pharmaceuticals
  9. ZS Pharma


The company uses data science and AI in its R&D department to help its scientists to develop life changing medicines. It has a tremendous amount of data that is decoded using AI and then that data is used to gain a better understanding of the diseases, identify new targets for novel medicines and speed up the process of designing and developing, among others. Some of the other major technologies include:

Pfizer’s attempt to acquire AstraZeneca

In 2014, the biggest US drug maker Pfizer offered $100 Bn to acquire AstraZeneca but the latter wasn’t intrigued. Also, a lot of political backlash started in the UK and Sweden as the deal would have entailed severe job losses and tax maneuvers. 

Pfizer again made an offer of $117 Bn to the British giant AstraZeneca but it still didn’t agree.  Under the new offer, the percentage of shares that were to be held by Pfizer and Astrazeneca were set as 73% and 27%, respectively. Following the rejections, British regulators set 26th May as a deadline for Pfizer to either raise its bid, launch a hostile takeover or relinquish the deal. However, the deal couldn’t take place despite Pfizer’s multiple attempts.

COVID Vaccine development

AstraZeneca has partnered with Oxford University to develop a viral vector vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19. Currently, the vaccine is being produced in several countries at different sites. In India, it is being manufactured by Serum Institute of India at Pune which is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by the number of doses produced, and is sold in India as “Covishield”.

Earnings and Profits

In 2020, its net profit was $3.2 Bn which is double the profit it earned in the preceding year. Recently, it revealed that the firm made revenue of $275 Bn through sales of 68 million COVID vaccines worldwide. Moreover, its total revenue, including payment from collaborations, was $7.32 Bn in the first quarter. However, the firm is not likely to profit a lot because it has decided to sell its vaccines on a non profit basis until the pandemic ends.


Although the company’s revenue might be affected due to its decision to not make profits through sales, it is highly appreciated as it comes amidst the time when the world needs it the most. Also, the firm has promised to produce up to 3 Bn doses of vaccines by the end of 2021 which would help a large group of population to get protection from the virus.

*Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended to provide a piece of general information. The views are expressed by the Author solely and BFTLR may or may not subscribe to the views of the Author.

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