Shares in UK drugmaker Vernalis were given a nudge yesterday on news that the company has entered into a new partnership with privately-owned French pharmaceutical group Servier focused on the development of cancer drugs.

The groups have joined hands in a three-year collaboration that aims to discover candidates for a new, undisclosed target, using Vernalis’ proprietary fragment and structure-based drug discovery platform, which, the firm claims, increases the quality and discovery rate of candidate compounds.

Under the terms of the deal, Vernalis stands to receive upfront fees as well as future milestones and royalties on sales, but the companies have decided not to divulge any more specific details regarding their agreement at this time.

Vernalis and Servier are already old friends, having sealed a previous oncology drug discovery deal in May 2007 based on the development of two candidates involved in protein-protein interactions. According to the UK drugmaker’s chief executive Ian Garland, this latest alliance “confirms [the firms] excellent working relationship and Servier’s recognition of the quality of our fragment and structure-based drug discovery platform”.

And commenting on what Servier gains from the relationship, Emmanuel Canet, President of Research and Development, said his firm is already “benefiting significantly” from its existing relationship with Vernalis and that the new collaboration “will further expedite the discovery of innovative compounds with potential use in therapeutic indications with high unmet medical need.”