AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. It was founded in 1999 through the merger of Astra AB and Zeneca Group, which themselves had roots dating back to 1913, with headquarters in Cambridge. It’s one of the world’s largest healthcare companies and has grown by way of several large acquisitions.
AstraZeneca has multiple research and development (R&D) facilities across the UK and works closely with the National Health Service (NHS) and government bodies. The company is best known for developing a preventative Covid-19 vaccine in 2020 in collaboration with Oxford University, which was the first to be approved in the UK, and has since been approved by several medicine agencies worldwide.
What does the business do?
While the company may be well known because of its Covid-19 vaccine, it also focuses on five main areas of research: cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, oncology, and local and general anaesthesia. It also has drug treatments for renal and metabolic diseases. These areas of research have led to the development of several well-known and widely purchased drugs, including Nexium (for sufferers of gastroesophageal reflux disease), which netted the company $14.4bn in Sweden between the year it was launched in 2001, and 2005.
AstraZeneca works with the NHS to pool skills, experience and resources to benefit patients that require medication, by making them easier to access. Ways in which they collaborate include nursing support, commissioning advice, help developing patient pathways, screening services and data analysis.
Between 2006 and 2014, the business acquired additional companies such as MedImmune ($15.2bn), Definiens ($150m), Cambridge Antibody Technology (£702m), and Spirogen ($440m).
AstraZeneca’s employee count has grown steadily as the company has expanded, reaching a record 83,000 towards the end of the pandemic in 2020. At the end of 2021, the company had delivered more than 3 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine (Vaxzevria) to patients, only 18 months after it was first developed in partnership with the University of Oxford.
According to Statista, the company’s best-selling drug is Tagrisso, a cancer medication for the treatment of non-small-cell carcinomas. During 2021, the drug generated $5bn in revenue. Perhaps surprisingly, the second-highest revenue generating drug for the company in the same year was Vaxzevria, which generated $3.9bn in revenue for the business.
From 2019 to 2021, the company amassed $86bn in product sales. Oncology treatments have proved to be the most lucrative offering, generating $13bn revenue in 2021.
AstraZeneca share price history
A constituent of the FTSE 100 index, AZN stock is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is one of the UK’s largest companies by market capitalisation. The AstraZeneca share price has been increasing in value consistently for the past decade.
In 2002, it reached a stock price high at the time of 3,472p, before dropping below the 2,000p per share mark in August 2002, with the announcement that one of its most important new drugs was no better than existing treatments, according to the Irish Times. The AZN share price would not fall below this mark again until two years later in December 2004, after disappointing announcements regarding one of its lung cancer treatments, taking £3bn off AstraZeneca’s valuation.
After several more years of turbulence, AstraZeneca shares settled in 2010, and from this point have moved from one high to the next, with August 2016 being a landmark date as the company broke past 5,000p per share for the first time. The run up to 2020 was largely positive, with the share price increasing on a consistent basis, until the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, which affected the stock market as a whole.
By December 2020, AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria vaccine was approved for emergency use in the UK. This set the path for a near continuous rally for the stock, which reached an all-time high of 10,866p in early August 2022.