AstraZeneca has big R&D goals to mitigate future declines in Covid-related sales

CEO Pascal Soriot expects a “very substantial decline” in 2023 Covid-related sales.
article cover

HBO Max via Giphy

· 3 min read

Navigate the healthcare industry

Stay up to date on the complex world of healthcare with the latest updates and insights in your inbox three times per week.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca executives have set some lofty goals as they anticipate a steep decline in Covid-19 pharma revenues for 2023.

One of the top 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world by revenue, AstraZeneca brought in $44.4 billion in revenue in 2022. The company develops drugs designed to treat a wide range of diseases—focusing on oncology; cardiovascular, renal and metabolism (CVRM) diseases; and rare diseases—but like many pharmaceutical companies, it shifted focus to Covid when the world desperately needed vaccines and treatments during the pandemic.

The London-based company made both a vaccine, called Vaxzevria, and an antibody therapy, called Evusheld. These drugs have collectively brought in more than $8.8 billion in revenue for AstraZeneca over the last couple years.

Now, as much of the world enters the endemic phase of Covid, Aradhana Sarin, AstraZeneca’s executive director and chief financial officer, told Healthcare Brew that the drugmaker will hit the ground running on research and development. The company has also set some aggressive goals to bring new drugs to the market, and this could help AstraZeneca make up for a “very substantial decline in demand for Covid medicines” that CEO Pascal Soriot said he expects to see this year during the company’s latest earnings call.

New Covid strategy

Instead of a mass vaccination push, the company will redirect its Covid strategy to focus on “protecting the most vulnerable population” with antibody therapy, Sarin said.

The drugmaker is developing a second generation of Evusheld, a combination of two antibodies designed to treat Covid in immunocompromised patients. Since the efficacy of one of the antibodies faded as the Covid virus mutated, AstraZeneca is working on a new version that’s effective against all variants, Sarin said.

Looking beyond Covid

In the Q4 earnings call, Soriot said AstraZeneca plans to launch 30 Phase 3 clinical trials this year and introduce 15 new drugs to the market by 2030. He also said he expects at least 10 of those drugs to become blockbusters, meaning they’ll make at least $1 billion in revenue annually.

To predict which drugs have blockbuster potential, Sarin said AstraZeneca scientists look at how big the patient population for a drug could be and then estimate how much benefit the drug could have for that population. The company currently has 12 blockbusters in its portfolio, including Tagrisso, Fasenra, Farxiga, Imfinzi, and Lynparza, according to a report from Zacks Investment Research.

Sarin said 30 Phase 3 clinical trials in one year is “definitely more than average” for AstraZeneca. The drugs pending trials are designed to treat all disease areas in the company’s portfolio.

Bringing 15 drugs to the market in the next seven years is an ambitious goal, considering the company released 10 drugs over the last 10 years, according to Sarin.

“Not everything will work, and it’ll require a lot of investment, and some things will fail,” Sarin said. “But we feel confident that we’ll still be able to launch that many new drugs through the end of 2030.”

Navigate the healthcare industry

Stay up to date on the complex world of healthcare with the latest updates and insights in your inbox three times per week.