AstraZeneca trumpets strength in drug development

British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca's manufacturing site in Macclesfield, northwest England.
Andrew Yates | AFP | Getty Images

AstraZeneca, determined to show it has a strong independent future after seeing off a $118 billion bid from Pfizer in May, said it had made good progress in developing a pipeline of new drugs.

Flagging an "industry-leading" portfolio of immune-boosting cancer drugs, the company also brought forward the filing date for a new lung cancer pill and said it had the potential to win between eight and 10 new drug approvals in 2015-2016 across all disease areas.

It reiterated it was on course to return to growth and that annual sales would rise by three quarters to exceed $45 billion by 2023, a forecast it first gave in May at the height of the defense against Pfizer.

AstraZeneca executives will present further details at a six-hour investor meeting later on Tuesday. The event comes eight days before British takeover rules allow Pfizer to renew its pursuit, an option some investors now see as unlikely.

"We have more than doubled the number of potential medicines in our late-stage pipeline since 2012 and we are on track to return to growth by 2017," Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement. "Weare building a sustainable, more durable and profitable company."

Although the company has more drugs coming through, AstraZeneca still faces major challenges, with a raft of patent expiries over the next few years, and Soriot said he would continue to seek partnerships and bolt-on acquisitions to build the business.

Most investor interest is focused on the group's cancer drug portfolio, particularly in the hot area of immuno-oncology, where it has 13 combination trials underway and 16 planned.

It is also making rapid progress with a new pill against lung cancer, called AZD9291, which is now expected to be filed for U.S. approval in the second quarter of 2015. Previously, the filing date was the second-half of next year.AstraZeneca is in a race with Clovis Oncology, which is developing a similar medicine.