The pharmaceutical giant, based in Cambridge, England, had a roller-coaster year. The company emerged as an early front-runner in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to a savvy partnership with researchers at the University of Oxford. AstraZeneca was seen as a pandemic hero by offering to make this low-cost vaccine available at no profit. But then it squandered much of this goodwill through a series of public communications blunders that raised doubts about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, as well as AstraZeneca’s transparency. The company also became embroiled in a bitter spat with the European Union over manufacturing delays. Despite the drama, CEO Pascal Soriot still managed to pull off the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest deal of the year, announcing the acquisition of Boston-based Alexion for $39 billion in December. And AZ’s portfolio of existing drugs registered robust sales growth, particularly its cancer medicines, with revenues in that area up 23% for the year.
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