Orexo has linked up with Johnson & Johnson in a research and licensing deal that could be worth around $600 million to the Swedish drugmaker.

The agreement gives J&J units Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceutica licenses to two of Orexo’s advanced preclinical programmes focusing on discovering and developing small-molecule treatments for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other inflammatory diseases. J&J will add a third programme to the alliance based on an undisclosed target.

The agreement will run for three years initially over which time Orexo will receive research funding contribution of up to $21.5 million, including an upfront payment of $10 million. If all three programmes for multiple indications succeed, the Uppsala-based company will be entitled to development payments of up to $564 million, plus additional sales milestones and royalties and has an option to co-promote in Nordic and Baltic countries. The J&J units will be responsible for all clinical development and commercialisation activities, including costs.

Torbjorn Bjerke, Orexo chief executive, said “we believe our R&D is of the highest international standards” and ”we look forward to further demonstrating our capabilities”. He added that the agreement “adds to the other good alliances we have made and is an important element for Orexo in becoming a profitable pharmaceutical company”.

Meantime, one of Orexo’s other partners, Scotland’s ProStrakan Group has announced that the US Food and Drug Administration has extended the review period on their cancer pain drug Abstral, a fast-dissolving formulation of fentanyl by three months.

The FDA issued the extension following its earlier request for additional information on the Abstral risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, which has been submitted already. Wilson Totten, ProStrakan chief executive, said “we view the extension as a positive sign” and the launch of Abstral in the USA (it is already available in Europe) is still on schedule for the second half of 2010.