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Timelines: 1988

Prev : Next MedImmune, Inc.


Military biotech

Immunologist Wayne Hockmeyer and physician Franklin Top of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found MedImmune, Inc. in Gaithersburg, Maryland. They intend to develop antitoxins and vaccines to combat infectious diseases. Hockmeyer serves as President and CEO. Cytomegalovirus, Lyme disease, and AIDS are company’s first disease targets.  Medimmune races toward commercial success when it markets CytoGam®, an antitoxin to cytomegalovirus in 1991, and a monoclonal antibody-based vaccine against certain strains of HIV (on which the firm is partnered with Merck & Co.) shows early clinical promise. After some project failures, and diminishing returns in AIDS research, MedImmune enters a period that Hockmeyer calls the company’s “nuclear winter.” The company’s market capitalization reaches a nadir when a vaccine for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is rejected by an FDA panel. The firm remains committed to the product, however, and renews clinical testing with more rigorous controls. MedImmune ultimately prevails and makes a comeback when it delivers RespiGam® to doctors and patients in 1995. This triumph is followed and surpassed by the introduction of Synagis® in 1998. Synagis® is a humanized monoclonal antibody (called palivizumab) that prevents RSV in children at high risk of infection. The product sets MedImmune on a solid foundation for future growth. In 2006, eighteen years after founding the company, Hockmeyer observed that lessons learned in laboratories are not enough sufficient to generate advances in clinical medicine:  “You have to build a successful business, which means you have to put products in the marketplace.” In 2007, AstraZeneca acquired Medimmune for $15.6 billion.

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