- Alexion Pharmaceuticals said it will not ask bigger companies to acquire it. Instead, company executives said they believe their strategy of switching patients from an older product to a newer one, as well as experimental drugs in development, will drive more value through sales growth than would an acquisition.
- The unusual declaration Thursday came following a meeting with shareholder activist Elliott Advisors, which had pushed Alexion to add former Takeda and Novartis executive Deborah Dunsire to the board in early 2018. Over the past two years, Alexion has undergone a board of directors "refreshment" and hired a new management team.
- Alexion management said it announced the discussions and the board of directors' conclusions in order to be transparent with shareholders. Shares rose 5% in morning trading Thursday.
Steady as it goes is the order from Alexion's management and board. Three years on from a scandal that involved its sales reporting practices, the rare disease biotech has undergone a transition in leadership and board membership, and rolled out a strategy to get the company past the patent expiration of its flagship drug Soliris (eculizumab).
The strategy, which involves switching patients to a longer-lasting drug called Ultomiris (ravulizumab) while investing in a pipeline built around rare and autoimmune diseases, is showing signs that it will pay off. Ultomiris sales hit $168 million over the first nine months of 2019.
Alexion has been discussed as a potential acquisition target for years, but recently it has been more predator than prey. In October, the company agreed to pay $930 million to buy Achillion Pharmaceuticals to gain access to a set of immune-mediating drugs.
Elliott doesn't appear to share the board and management's enthusiasm for this strategy, and was asking for an immediate launch of a "proactive sale process," according to the Alexion statement.
"Consistent with its fiduciary duties, the Board unanimously decided that conducting a proactive sale process would not be in the best interest of shareholders and the patients we serve at this time," the statement read. "It is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for a biopharmaceutical company of our size and maturity to proactively launch a sale process."
Notably, the statement said Alexion has not received nor rejected any offers to buy it.