Shares in UK drugmaker Vectura were on the up yesterday after the group not only announced the receipt of a $7.5-million milestone from Novartis but also a substantial leap in revenues for the year.

By lunchtime, the group’s stock had leapt nearly 15% on the London Stock Exchange as investors celebrated the company’s good fortune; news of a “robust” 12-month financial performance and that Novartis has kicked off a Phase III study of a potential chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug containing a compound licensed from Vectura.

The Swiss drug giant is now testing its QVA149 - a once-daily, inhaled dry powder comprised of the once-daily beta 2 agonist QAB149 (indacaterol) and the UK firm’s long-acting muscarinic antagonist NVA237 (glycopyrronium bromide) - for the treatment of COPD in a Phase III clinical trial programme, pushing the combination therapy a step closer to approval and triggering the milestone to Vectura.

NVA237 was licensed to Novartis by Vectura and its co-development partner Sosei Group Corp back in a 2005, under a deal that could potentially reap the two companies up to $375 million in milestones, as well as extra royalties on sales should any related products make it to market.

Novartis is currently developing NVA237 both as a monotherapy and in combination with QAB149. Late stage trials of the drug as standalone agent began in June last year, also releasing a $7.5 million to each company, and the Swiss group expects to file for approval sometime next year.

As for the combination product, a regulatory submission is anticipated in 2012, depending on the outcome of the Phase III programme. “This is the first once-daily LAMA/LABA combination product to enter Phase III trials and, with an anticipated filing date of 2012, could provide an important future addition to the available treatment options for COPD,” noted Chris Blackwell, Vectura’s chief executive.

Results promise
In further good news for the Chippenham-based group, while its preliminary results are not due until June 7 the firm has provided a trading update in which it says it expects revenues of £38 million-£42 million for the year, marking a leap of at least 25% over the prior 12-month period.

In addition, the company said loss after tax should be “significantly reduced” compared with the £16.7-million loss recorded for the year ended March 31, 2009, and that cash is in line with expectations, at around £64 million.