GlaxoSmithKline has linked up with EUSA Pharma and signed a deal which will give the pharmaceutical giant access to an antibody that shows promise in oncology and inflammatory diseases.

EUSA, which describes itself as “a transatlantic specialty pharmaceutical company”, says it has out-licensed exclusive worldwide rights to OP-R003, its preclinical-stage human anti-interleukin-6 antibody, to GSK for $44 million, plus royalties. 50% of that will go to its development partner Vaccinex.

GSK will fund future development, production and commercialisation of the compound, which EUSA says is the first fully human anti-interleukin-6 antibody. OP-R003 is derived from a first generation murine antibody, elsilimomab, which has achieved promising clinical results as a lymphoma therapy and as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

EUSA got hold of OP-R003 as part of its acquisition of the French biopharmaceutical company OPi last year and it was the latter firm that originally had the deal with Vaccinex. Commenting on the latest agreement, Brian McVeigh, GSK's worldwide business development director of M&A strategy and transactions, said that “interleukin-6 is increasingly recognised as an important biological target in a range of diseases, and consequently OP-R003 has great potential".