AstraZeneca has signed a metabolic alliance with Evotec in a deal that could be worth almost 260 million euros to the German biotech.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker's biologics unit MedImmune has signed a licence and collaboration agreement with Evotec subsidiary Develogen in the diabetes therapeutic area. The pact will have a particular focus on the regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells and gives MedImmune exclusive access to "a portfolio of research programmes".

Cashwise, Evotec is pocketing a 5 million euro upfront fee, and is eligible for milestone payments of up to 254 million euros, plus royalties are agreed. Extra payments may be achieved with the approval of additional indications and Evotec will also receive research cash to support further in vivo and in vitro pharmacology efforts conducted in collaboration with MedImmune.

Cord Dohrmann, Evotec chief scientific officer, noted that the loss of insulin-producing beta cells is tightly linked to the development of diabetes and "using a unique screening approach for beta cell regeneration targets, we have identified and validated novel and highly relevant biological factors". He added that the most advanced factor "has demonstrated efficacy in animal models of beta cell regeneration in particular increasing the functional beta cell mass and thereby improving and restoring glycaemic control".

Dr Dohrmann said MedImmune is a leader in biopharmaceutical research "with cutting-edge protein production and engineering capabilities and thus a perfect partner for Evotec". He concluded by saying that "we intend to generate a pipeline of biological factors that have the potential to prevent or reverse disease progression, and confer optimal glycaemic control in patients".