AstraZeneca approached Gilead about potential merger – Bloomberg News

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FILE PHOTO: Gilead Sciences Inc pharmaceutical company is seen after they announced a Phase 3 Trial of the investigational antiviral drug Remdesivir in patients with severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Oceanside, California, U.S., April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) has approached rival drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) about a potential merger, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Any deal would bring together two of the companies leading the drug industry’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

AstraZeneca contacted Gilead last month and it did not provide the terms of any transaction, the report bloom.bg/3h2GU9e added.

A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca said the company does comment on rumors or speculation. Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gilead, AstraZeneca and several other drugmakers, including Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N), Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N), are racing to develop vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

More than 6.90 million people have been reported infected with the coronavirus globally and 399,025 have died, a Reuters tally showed on Sunday.

While Gilead has discussed the merger idea with advisors, no decision has been made on how to proceed and the companies are not in formal talks, Bloomberg News said.

Gilead is not interested in selling to or merging with another big pharmaceutical company, and prefers instead to focus its deal strategy on partnerships and smaller acquisitions, the report said.

AstraZeneca said on June 4 it had doubled manufacturing capacity for its potential coronavirus vaccine to 2 billion doses in two deals involving Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates that guarantee early supply to lower income countries. It is unclear if a vaccine will work, but AstraZeneca’s partnership with Oxford University to develop one is among a handful of initiatives U.S. President Donald Trump’s COVID task force has backed. Gilead has also been at the forefront. Its Remdesivir antiviral is the first drug to lead to improvement in COVID-19 patients in formal clinical trials.

Reporting by Rama Venkat and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis

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