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Max Nisen

Alexion's Deal Discipline Sure Beats a Previous Disaster

Its latest purchase signals that management has learned from the company's past mistakes and is attempting to build a more balanced future.
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Photographer: f8 Imaging/Getty Images

Alexion Pharmaceutical Inc.'s $790 million purchase of rare-drug developer Wilson Therapeutics AB Wednesday comes two days after Novartis AG announced a much larger acquisition in the same space. Both transactions are being hailed as evidence of a nascent wave of rare-disease M&A. That may or may not turn out to be the case, but for Alexion, the deal is a positive development.

It's worth remembering that in the world of rare-disease treatments, Alexion is a cautionary tale. Previous management inked one of the worst deals in biotech history in pursuit of an orphan-drug blockbuster. And the firm's over-reliance on Soliris -- arguably the most successful rare-disease drug ever -- has produced huge swings in its share price. Against this backdrop, Alexion's comparatively circumspect Wilson deal is an encouraging sign that management has learned from the company's past mistakes, and is at least attempting to build a more balanced future.