AstraZeneca moves to acquire McMaster-supported Fusion Pharmaceuticals for $2.4 billion (US)

John Valliant smiling against a grey backdrop

Led by CEO John Valliant, Fusion, which develops next-generation precision cancer medicines will become a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca and continue its operations at its state-of-the-art facility at McMaster Innovation Park.

Updated June 28, 2024: AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Fusion Pharmaceuticals was finalized for a value of $2 billion (US).

A cancer therapy and diagnostics company that grew from a McMaster professor’s idea into a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company is being acquired by global pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca in a deal valued at as much as $2.4 billion (US).

Fusion Pharmaceuticals, which develops next-generation radioconjugates as precision medicine, announced Tuesday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to become a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca, likely by the end of the second quarter of the year. It will be one of the highest-valued acquisitions of a Canadian university spinout company.

Fusion’s research and manufacturing operations will continue in the U.S. and Canada, including at a state-of-the-art facility at McMaster Innovation Park, near campus on Longwood Road South.

“We are proud of the industry-leading radiopharmaceutical R&D, pipeline, manufacturing and actinium-225 supply chain that we have built at Fusion,” said Fusion CEO John Valliant.

“This transaction is recognition of Fusion’s innovative science, and gives us a unique opportunity to accelerate the development of next-generation radioconjugates with the aim of transforming patient outcomes.”

Valliant, who founded Fusion, is also a professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster. Under his leadership, Fusion became a publicly traded spin-out company of the McMaster-based Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization.

Valliant said McMaster’s support had been instrumental to Fusion’s success, starting in 2008 when the university had enabled the creation of CPDC on campus, which was then a novel idea for commercialization in the academic landscape.

The Faculty of Science supported his commercialization work while he remained in his academic role, and ultimately that the university welcomed and facilitated Fusion’s location at MIP, Valliant said.

Fusion also partners with McMaster to train graduate students in the development, testing and use of radiopharmaceuticals to identify and treat cancers, creating a unique training experience.

Smart bombs targeting cancer

Radiopharmaceuticals, injected intravenously, take radiation therapy to the next level with a precision medicine approach that delivers “smart bombs” directly to cancer cells.

This acquisition of Fusion will help AZ become a leader in personalized medicine — developing cancer therapeutics in a more targeted and precise manner for more effective treatment with reduced toxic side effects.

Radioconjugates, or RCs, combine the precise targeting of antibodies or small molecules with potent medical radioisotopes to deliver radiation directly to cancer cells, providing a more exact mechanism for killing cancer cells.

Fusion has differentiated itself in the growing radioconjugate field by assembling an industry-leading team with deep expertise, as well as the necessary infrastructure to bring much-needed therapies to cancer patients, said the company’s president and Chief Business Officer Mohit Rawat.

“Together we look forward to building upon our work to impact the landscape of cancer therapy,” Rawat said. “Deepening our collaboration with AstraZeneca presents an exciting opportunity for the Fusion team.”

A hub of innovation and entrepreneurship 

“We are proud to have played a part in enabling Fusion’s incredible success,” says McMaster President David Farrar.

“For many years, McMaster has been committed to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, on our campus and in our region. This agreement speaks to our researchers’ ability to convert their world-class research into innovations that generate economic activity, create jobs and, most important, improve health outcomes for patients in Canada and globally.”

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