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AstraZeneca has made the decision to push six early-stage experimental drugs into a new $250 million standalone biotech company focused on severe autoimmune diseases. 

According to Reuters, the spin-off of the three clinical and three pre-clinical biological compounds is the latest example of the drugmaker pruning its non-core drug development work to focus on priority areas, notably in cancer. 

The news seems like the right decision following the comment that its drug pipeline was “over-sized relative to the current size of our company,” by Chief Executive, Pascal Soriot. 

Over the medicines, it has divested a number of medicines. However, in the case of the new inflammation and autoimmunity company, called Viela Bio, AstraZeneca will retain a significant interest as the company’s largest minority shareholder. 

Viela Bio’s new medicines include inebilizumab for neuromyelitis optica, a rare disease affecting the optic nerve and spinal cord of around five in 100,000 people. The drug has orphan drug status and could be filed for approval in late 2019 or early 2020. 

But, the new deal doesn’t include anifrolumab, the promising treatment in final-stage clinical testing that AstraZeneca developing for lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease with limited treatment options. 

Bahija Jallal, head of AstraZeneca’s MedImmune biotech unit, believes that the drugmaker will remain strongly active in immunology. “Our strategy is very much to follow the science. In some cases, we will develop the science in-house and in other cases, it will be developed elsewhere,” she added.