Pas­cal So­ri­ot is stay­ing at As­traZeneca af­ter all, con­firm­ing up­com­ing pre­sen­ta­tion - re­ports

As­traZeneca has stayed mum for two long days filled with an in­tense round of ru­mors and spec­u­la­tion over the fu­ture of their CEO, Pas­cal So­ri­ot. But the lat­est re­port out of Lon­don is that So­ri­ot has de­cid­ed to stay with the phar­ma gi­ant af­ter all, for­go­ing a re­port­ed of­fer of a $20 mil­lion bonus and a chance to re­or­ga­nize a trou­bled Te­va. And the com­pa­ny, while stay­ing silent on the sto­ry, is con­firm­ing plans for So­ri­ot to make a key pre­sen­ta­tion in about two weeks.

The lat­est news was bro­ken by Bloomberg Fri­day af­ter­noon but didn’t hit the In­ter­net im­me­di­ate­ly. StreetInsid­er cit­ed the re­port in a brief, say­ing that So­ri­ot “is cur­rent­ly plan­ning to stay for the fore­see­able fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, cit­ing peo­ple with knowl­edge of the mat­ter.”

As­traZeneca in­vestors quick­ly bid up shares in the phar­ma gi­ant by more than 4% as news of the CEO’s plans to stay spread Fri­day, re­plac­ing the bil­lions lost ear­li­er as the mar­ket man­aged to over­come a bad case of nerves spurred by thoughts that an ex­it by So­ri­ot at this stage im­plied bad news for the cru­cial MYS­TIC study for dur­val­um­ab and treme­li­mum­ab. That Phase III da­ta is due any day now.

Of­fi­cial­ly, As­traZeneca is main­tain­ing the same po­si­tion it has held for the past two days. In re­sponse to a query of mine, a spokesper­son for As­traZeneca re­spond­ed: “Re­gard­ing the Te­va ru­mours still the same, we don’t com­ment on spec­u­la­tion.”

But the com­pa­ny did fol­low up with a time­ly note on an up­com­ing re­view of As­traZeneca’s H1 re­sults, for Ju­ly 27, close to two weeks from now, with a pre­sen­ta­tion by So­ri­ot. In­sid­ers are al­so telling the Fi­nan­cial Times that it’s busi­ness as usu­al at As­traZeneca.

There’s been plen­ty of time to chat­ter about all kinds of pos­si­bil­i­ties in the time since Cal­cal­ist first re­port­ed that So­ri­ot was in the fi­nal stages of ham­mer­ing out a con­tract. One of the lat­est dis­cus­sions cen­tered on the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Pfiz­er might make a re­newed bid if So­ri­ot was gone, leav­ing the door open to a deal that he spurned three years ago.

That ev­i­dent­ly won’t be hap­pen­ing, ei­ther.

Te­va Chair­man Sol Bar­er has made it clear that find­ing a cred­i­ble new CEO to lead the com­pa­ny at a time gener­ic pric­ing has erod­ed and its pipeline re­mains weak is a cru­cial task. Now he’ll be ex­pect­ed to go back and find some­one else to fill the po­si­tion — the fourth CEO in as many years. Te­va’s shares plunged 4% as the mar­ket clawed back gains from the last two days.

https://twit­ter.com/Arm­strong­Drew/sta­tus/885919752669057024

So­ri­ot is left in a dif­fi­cult spot, still work­ing on a turn­around as rev­enue slides in­to a trough and the pipeline proves far less ef­fec­tive than the CEO had promised.

One key are­na, on­col­o­gy, has de­liv­ered some sol­id gains with drugs like Lyn­parza and Tagris­so and pos­si­bly Imfinzi (dur­val­um­ab). But the big R&D cat­a­lyst this year cen­ters on As­traZeneca’s ques­tion­able MYS­TIC study, com­bin­ing dur­val­um­ab and treme­li­mum­ab, with plen­ty of deep seat­ed fears about the out­come. As­traZeneca had to set­tle for a fifth place fin­ish among the check­point con­tenders as it cen­tered its plans around So­ri­ot’s strat­e­gy of de­liv­er­ing com­bi­na­tions that could leapfrog the lead­ers in the field.

That strat­e­gy is far from be­ing ex­e­cut­ed on. And oth­er el­e­ments in the pipeline have been sore dis­ap­point­ments. As­traZeneca has ex­pe­ri­enced ma­jor set­backs on a score of big projects.

  • Bril­in­ta was sup­posed to be the un­pol­ished jew­el in As­traZeneca’s crown. It’s been a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment.
  • Selume­tinib has been a flop, fail­ing back-to-back Phase III stud­ies.
  • There was a Phase III miss for tralok­inum­ab in asth­ma.
  • ZS-9 was kicked back by reg­u­la­tors twice for man­u­fac­tur­ing rea­sons, giv­ing a ri­val time to re­group and so­lid­i­fy its po­si­tion in the mar­ket.
  • The com­pa­ny has qui­et­ly and steadi­ly pulled out of an­tibi­otics.
  • A whole se­ries of drugs — in ad­di­tion to an­tibi­otics — have been sold off to sup­ply some fast rev­enue in place of what had been big peak sales fore­casts, among them bro­dalum­ab.

Most of that laun­dry list of set­backs was racked up in the last year.

All these prob­lem­at­ic drugs were in­tend­ed to play a big role in dou­bling As­traZeneca’s $23 bil­lion in 2016 rev­enue. Keep­ing that promise by 2023, which So­ri­ot used to win over in­vestors and re­ject Pfiz­er’s bid for the com­pa­ny in 2014, has been an in­creas­ing­ly un­like­ly prospect.

When So­ri­ot ar­rived at As­traZeneca, he made a great show of an­nounc­ing plans for a big new cam­pus in Cam­bridge, UK. Now that project, like so many things about As­traZeneca, is un­fin­ished, be­hind sched­ule and way over bud­get. He was sup­posed to have that done in 2016.

Now So­ri­ot will re­port­ed­ly be stay­ing for the fore­see­able fu­ture, to see if he can get this right.

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

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Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

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