Having just posted its financials for the first nine months, Spain's Almirall has linked up with UK drug discovery firm BioFocus and announced a late-stage trial of its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug aclidinium in combination with formoterol.

BioFocus, which is the service division of Belgium's Galapagos, will apply its screening technologies and compound collections to an undisclosed number of Almirall projects. The collaboration will focus on the respiratory and inflammatory fields.

Almirall R&D chief Beryl Lindemark said "we have been impressed by the depth of the BioFocus technology platforms, the size, content and diversity of the available compound decks and the obvious strength and experience of the scientists that will be engaged on our projects".

The deal was announced just before the Barcelona-based group said that, together with its US partner Forest, it has initiated a Phase III programme of a fixed-dose combination of aclidinium and formoterol delivered in the Genuair inhaler, for the treatment of moderate to severe COPD.

In January, Almirall and Forest announced positive results of two Phase IIb studies which demonstrated that the combo demonstrated improved bronchodilation compared to aclidinium and formoterol alone. Aclidinium as monotherapy was filed in Europe and the USA in the summer.

Meantime, Almirall has posted its financials for the first nine months of 2011 which show that sales fell 12.5% to 591.9 million euros, while net income was down 23.1% to 93.7 million euros.

Chief executive Eduardo Sanchiz said that "in a challenging environment, we maintain solid financial fundamentals" and "we are highly focused on cost management and in the growth of our international business". He added that "now is the time to ensure that the anticipated forthcoming launches of aclidinium and linaclotide [irritable bowel syndrome with constipation], with unprecedented sales potential for Almirall, are optimally promoted".

Almirall's other key growth driver is Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol) for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. It has now been launched by the firm in Spain, Germany and Denmark and will hit the market in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Sweden during 2012.