AstraZeneca Plc has made a preliminary approach to rival drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. about a potential merger, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the biggest health-care deal on record.
Any deal would bring together two of the companies leading the drug industry's efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, according to Bloomberg News.
AstraZeneca contacted Gilead last month and it did not provide the terms of any transaction, the report added.
Gilead, AstraZeneca and several other drugmakers, including Eli Lilly and Co, Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co Inc, 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.
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 US 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 an improvement in COVID-19 patients in formal clinical trials.