Zeltia has received a major boost this morning after it sealed a licensing deal with the USA’s Medimetriks Pharmaceuticals for the Spanish drugmaker’s anti-tumour agent Kahalalide F for uses outside oncology and neurology.

Under the terms of the deal, Zeltia’s PharmaMar unit will receive undisclosed development milestone payments and royalties on worldwide sales of Kahalalide F products developed for skin diseases, notably psoriasis. In addition, the Madrid-headquartered group will get part of any additional income Medimetriks might receive from sublicensees and the US firm, which was set up by senior management from Bradley Pharmaceuticals last year, will pay for all development costs.

Kahalalide F is a novel depsipeptide developed by PharmaMar, which was originally extracted from the Hawaiian sea slug Elysia rufescens but is now totally synthetic. PharmaMar is retaining the rights to the compound for the treatment of cancer (it is in trials for melanoma, non-small lung cancer and hepatocarcinoma) and central nervous systems disorders.

Luis Mora, general manager of PharmaMar, said that Medimetriks is led by an experienced team “whose impressive track record in dermatology is evident from their work at Bradley,” He added that the Kahalalide F project “is now in very capable hands and we look forward to seeing the compound being developed for a broad range of dermatological indications”. The firm previously outlicensed different analogues of Kahalalide F to Marinomed Biotechnologie of Austria for uses outside oncology and neurology.

Bradley Glassman, Medimetriks chief executive, praised PharmaMar’s “extraordinary work in developing and commercialising marine-derived compounds for medical use” and said that Kahalalide F shows promise as a treatment of skin diseases, “with an initial focus on psoriasis”.

Zeltia, best-known for Yondelis (trabectedin), which is approved in Europe as a second-line treatment for advanced soft tissue sarcoma, presented the results of thirteen trials on various compounds developed by Pharmamar at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Orlando earlier this month.