MedImmune works to boost the immune systems of babies and grown-ups. Its flagship biotech product, Synagis, prevents respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a major cause of pneumonia and other respiratory disease in infants and children. Also on the market are FluMist, its nasal spray flu vaccine, and Ethyol (amifostine), which treats side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. The company is working on dozens of investigational therapies -- including monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and small molecule drugs -- in the areas of infectious disease, cancer, inflammation, and autoimmune and respiratory conditions. MedImmune is a subsidiary of UK-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
Synagis, a monoclonal antibody (MAb, or single-source protein) therapy, is MedImmune's top selling drug, earning about $1 billion annually. Sales of the drug declined to about $975 million in 2011, however, as viral infection levels declined and as the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted more restrictive guidelines for the drug's use in the US. The company promotes Synagis independently in the US, where it is primarily distributed through drug wholesalers; Abbott Labs distributes the product outside the US.
MedImmune has also had success with its nasal flu vaccine, FluMist, though sales of the vaccine can also fluctuate as seasonal flu infection rates rise and fall. The company has expanded the use of the vaccine to new age groups and international markets in recent years. The vaccine has gained approval in the US, Canada, Brazil, and a handful of other countries, and the European Union commission granted approval for FluMist (known as Fluenz in Europe) in 2011. The company's third product, Ethyol, has seen declining sales as it lost its patent protection back in 2008, and it is now largely sold under its generic name, amifostine.
Despite launching a number of cost-cutting programs in recent years to offset losses related to patent expirations on its bestselling products, AstraZeneca has continued to invest in its biologic R&D programs, which are primarily conducted by the MedImmune organization. The company has R&D operations in Maryland and California in the US, as well as in the UK.
MedImmune has about 100 projects in its pipeline in various stages of development, including about 20 compounds in clinical trial stages. The company's drug candidates aim to treat ailments such as solid cancer tumors, asthma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and pain. It is also working on new pandemic flu vaccines and anti-RSV vaccines.
To expand its pipeline, MedImmune formed a partnership with biotech firm Amgen to develop anti-inflammatory drugs in 2012. The previous year, it partnered with Pfizer on a biotech cancer treatment.