Bristol-Myers Squibb has transferred North American rights to cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) to Eli Lilly, as it hones its focus on the immuno-oncology field.

Rights to the drug include, but are not limited to, full commercialisation and manufacturing operational responsibilities of the drug in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, where it is marketed for colorectal and head and neck cancers.

The companies said the decision comes after a 14-year successful collaboration, involving Lilly’s wholly-owned subsidiary ImClone, which developed the drug and set up the marketing arrangement with B-MS before it was snapped up by the US drugs giant in 2008.

The transition is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015, although B-MS will continue to bag tiered royalties based on net product sales in North America through September 2018.

“Fully bringing Erbitux into the Lilly Oncology portfolio accelerates Lilly’s commitment and leadership in gastrointestinal cancers to include an effective treatment for advanced colorectal cancer as well as head and neck cancer,” noted Sue Mahony, president of Lilly Oncology.