Abbott Laboratories has linked up with Biotest to develop the latter's antibody BT-061 for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, a deal which could be worth $480 million to the German biotech.

BT-061, a novel anti-CD4 antibody is currently in Phase II for RA and psoriasis, with preclinical studies underway to examine its potential in other immune-related diseases. The drug activates the body’s T-regulatory cells, strengthening a natural function of the body that prevents excessive immune reactions and Abbott says that unlike other anti-CD4 antibodies that have been in development, "BT-061 does not cause depletion of CD4 positive T-cells that would give rise to weakened immune responses".

Cashwise, Biotest will receive an upfront fee of $85 million and will be eligible to receive additional milestone payments of up to $395 million, plus royalties. The firms will co-promote BT-061 in the five major European markets (Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain) and Abbott will have exclusive rights elsewhere.

John Leonard, head of global R&D at Abbott, noted that "though the research is still early, BT-061 has the potential to become an important treatment option for patients suffering from autoimmune diseases”. He added that the compound will strengthen the firm's immunology pipeline "and we look forward to continuing to build on our expertise in exploring multiple mechanisms and approaches to treat inflammatory diseases".

Abbott already sells the blockbuster anti-inflammatory Humira (adalimumab), which is approved for RA and Crohn's disease.