Biopharma Closes 2023 with Flurry of M&A Activity from AstraZeneca, BMS, Roche

M&A_iStock, Tippapatt

Pictured: Businessmen shaking hands after closing a deal/iStock, Tippapatt

The biopharma industry ended 2023 with three big-ticket acquisitions in the oncology, autoimmune diseases, radiopharmaceuticals and point-of-care diagnostics spaces.

AstraZeneca last week inked a definitive acquisition agreement with China-based cell therapy biotech Gracell Biotechnologies.

Under the terms of the deal, the drugmaker will buy all of Gracell’s fully diluted share capital for $2 a pop in cash—for a total upfront consideration of around $1 billion—which represents a 62% premium to the biotech’s closing market price on Dec. 22, 2023.

AstraZeneca is also on the hook for a non-tradeable contingent value right of $0.3 per ordinary share, payable after hitting an unspecified regulatory milestone. The Gracell acquisition could reach a total value of approximately $1.2 billion.

As part of the agreement, AstraZeneca gains access to the investigational cell therapy GC012F, which is a dual-targeting autologous CAR-T therapy being developed for multiple myeloma and other hematologic cancers, as well as autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus. AstraZeneca will also secure ownership of Gracell’s FasTCAR platform for CAR-T development.

The companies expect to close the transaction in the first quarter of 2024, after which Gracell will become a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca with a presence in both the U.S. and China.

Last week, BMS also announced that it bought RayzeBio for a total equity value of approximately $4.1 billion, or a net of $3.6 billion.

RayzeBio is a developer of radiopharmaceutical therapies with several potentially first-in-class and best-in-class actinium-based candidates. Its lead program is RYZ101, an SSTR2-targeting radiotherapeutic that is currently in late-stage testing for gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. RYZ101 is also being developed for extensive stage small-cell lung cancer.

Beyond its product pipeline, RayzeBio also has an in-house manufacturing facility under construction which will open in Indiana and begin drug production in the first half of 2024.

BMS and RayzeBio expect to close the transaction in the first half of this year.

On Dec. 29, Roche announced that it had acquired certain companies under the LumiraDx group.

Specifically, Roche purchased LumiraDx companies focused on point-of-care diagnostics, as well as other related assets, paying $295 million at closing along with up to $55 million in reimbursements meant to support LumiraDx’s diagnostics businesses until the closing of the acquisition.

Roche and LumiraDx expect to complete the deal by mid-2024.

These three acquisitions could be a signal of how dealmaking activity will look like in 2024. A December 2023 report by professional services firm PwC indicated that there will likely be an increase in opportunities in the areas of oncology, immunology, weight loss and cardiovascular diseases, with dealmaking value and volume potentially reaching pre-pandemic levels.

The industry will also see a slight uptick in IPOs, particularly for companies with strong clinical data and a clear focus, according to PwC. Still, biopharma will continue to face several potential macro-level challenges, including rising geopolitical tensions, regulatory uncertainties and interest rates.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at or

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