France’s Ipsen has bought an option to acquire the UK’s Canbex Therapeutics, which is working on a treatment for spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.

Canbex is a spin-off of University College London that raised £2.3 million in 2013 from MS Ventures (the corporate venture arm of Merck KGaA), the Wellcome Trust and UCL Business. The therapy in question, called VSN16R, which has been shown in preclinical and Phase I studies to have the potential to provide substantially better patient care than existing systemic anti-spastic treatments, Ipsen says.

Ipsen has paid 6 million euros for the option to acquire Canbex at completion of a Phase IIa study. The latter’s present shareholders will be eligible to receive up to an additional 90 million euros, comprising an acquisition payment, plus royalties on VSN16R.

Ipsen chief executive Marc de Garidel said Canbex’ lead compound “has demonstrated excellent safety, efficacy and tolerability to date and fits well within our neurology franchise”. He added that “it could be a valuable companion product” to his company’s wrinkles and cervical dystonia treatment Dysport (abobotulinumtoxin A) in the treatment of spasticity.