UK drugmaker Vernalis has been given a nice little pre-Christmas boost after learning it is due to receive another hefty milestone payment and hearing that its Novartis-partnered drugs are progressing well.

Shareholders welcomed news that the group stands to pocket a further $700,000 milestone payment under the terms of the sale of its Parkinson’s disease drug Apokyn (apomorphine hydrochloride) and US commercial operations to French drugmaker Ipsen in 2008.

In the first instance, the deal provided Vernalis with an initial pile of cash of $6.5 million as well as a $5.0 million share subscription, but also the opportunity to earn an extra $6 million if the firm hit certain targets.

Including this latest payment, the company has earned $1.7 million of the total availabl to date, and says it could still gain an additional $2.5 million if future US net sales of Apokyn and its wrinkle therapy Dysport (abobotulinumtoxin A) overshoot the agreed threshold.

In further good news for the firm, Vernalis said that several of its compounds taken under Novartis’ wing for development in cancer - including AUY922 - could enter proof of concept studies next year, and that the Swiss drug giant is now testing HSP990 in Phase I dose escalation studies.