UCB has entered into a partnership with Wilex which will see the Belgian drugmaker take a 13% stake in the Germany biotechnology company.

In return Wilex will acquire UCB's entire preclinical oncology portfolio, comprising two small-molecule and three antibody programmes. The Brussels-based group retains exclusive rights to re-purchase the projects and assume responsibility for further developing each drug after the initial clinical studies have been completed.

UCB is also investing 10 million euros in Wilex to get that 13% stake and will also make milestone payments of another 10 million euros once clinical trials begin, which are expected within about 12 months after the closing of the deal. Melanie Lee, president of UCB NewMedicines, said that Wilex is “the ideal strategic partner” for the preclinical oncology portfolio and says it gives the firm the opportunity “to focus our R&D priorities in our core indication areas, central nervous system and immunology".

The Munich-based firm’s shares soared 64% on the news to 3.69 euros and chairman Olaf Wilhelm said that the alliance with UCB “is an important step in Wilex's history”. He added that his firm has gained “not only an important development partner, but also a strong strategic investor which will help to further the development of our company".

Deal signed with Azur
Meantime, UCB has signed a deal with privately-held, Ireland-headquartered Azur Pharma which has seen the latter firm seal the exclusive US marketing rights for the anxiety disorder drug Niravam (alprazolam) and Parcopa (carbidopa-levodopa) for Parkinson’s disease. The drugs have been available in the USA since 2005 and 2004, thoiugh Azur noted that there is one approved generic competitor to Parcopa.

The Dublin-based group has also licensed US rights to Kemstro (baclofen), which is approved to treat spasticity and the antiulcerant Fluxid (famotidine). Neither of these compounds is commercially available yet in the USA.