Danish biotechnology company Genmab and partner GlaxoSmithKline say that they have started a Phase III programme with the fully human monoclonal antibody ofatumumab for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The trial will begin with two studies of ofatumumab, which is also known as HuMax-CD20, that will be carried out outside the USA. One study will be in patients who have had an inadequate response to methotrexate therapy and the other will involve people who do not respond to TNF-alpha antagonist treatment, while Genmab said that further trials are planned for next year.

Lisa Drakeman, chief executive at Genmab, said that "this brings us closer to our goal of broadening the treatment options for patients with this painful and debilitating disease". She added that "from the data to date, we believe that ofatumumab has real potential” and now that Phase III studies are underway in multiple indications, “we are moving closer to realising this potential".

Those other indications include multiple sclerosis and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. HuMax-CD20 is already in late-stage development for CD20 positive B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and in Phase II for follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.