AstraZeneca has linked up with MAP Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialise the latter’s nebulised formulation of budesonide, the active ingredient found in the drug giant’s asthma treatment Pulmicort.

MAP has developed unit dose budesonide (UDB), which is currently in Phase III for paediatric asthma. AstraZeneca says that UDB has the potential to be nebulised “more quickly and at a lower nominal dose than the commercially available product”.

Under the terms of the agreement, MAP will receive an upfront payment of $40 million and another $35 million if the drug successfully achieves the primary endpoint and safety results of the Phase III study. MAP will also be eligible to receive up to $240 million in other potential development and regulatory milestones, and a further $585 million “in the event the product is a considerable commercial success”.

AstraZeneca also will fund the establishment of a MAP sales force to co-promote UDB in the USA for a certain period of time after launch and the latter firm is also eligible to receive significant double-digit royalties. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has gained the rights to UDB outside the USA.

David Brennan, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, said that UDB “represents an important potential new option for treating children confronting asthma”. He added that the deal “can open new areas of opportunity for both companies and has the potential to bring significant medical benefit to the wider community”.

UDB is being developed utilising a licence to Elan Corp's NanoCrystal technology. AstraZeneca said that the small size and stability of NanoCrystal drug particles are designed to enable improved delivery efficiency of drug formulations to the lung via nebulisation.