Rumors: AstraZeneca mulls Mereo takeover

June 17, 2022

Rumors are flying that AstraZeneca is considering a bid for cancer and rare disease specialist Mereo BioPharma, courtesy of a report published in Britain's The Times.

The speculation, which was reported without attribution, also said that AstraZeneca wasn't the only drugmaker interested in London-based Mereo — other potential suitors include Novartis, OncXerna and Ultragenyx, all of which currently have partnerships with Mereo.

AstraZeneca’s tie up with Mereo began in Oct. 2017, when Mereo in-licensed the orphan drug candidate Alvelestat from AstraZeneca. Alvelestat is an oral drug that is being researched in people with the rare alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) lung disease.

Alvelestat, along with Setrusumab, which is being studied against Osteogenesis Imperfecta (commonly known as brittle bone disease), are Mereo's most advanced pipeline candidates — both are currently in mid-stage trials.

AstraZeneca made its intentions clear in the rare disease space when the drugmaker unveiled the largest biopharma deal of 2020, announcing a proposed takeover of rare disease specialist Alexion Pharma in mid-December during the COVID-19 lockdown. The deal eventually closed at $39 billion.

The Mereo rumor comes just weeks after the company revealed that it received a notification letter from Nasdaq's Listing Qualifications Department notifying the company that its shares failed to maintain a minimum bid price of $1.00 over the previous 30 consecutive business days and the company was in danger of being delisted.