Australian drugmaker Biota has signed a research and licensing agreement worth up to $102 million with Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim to develop and commercialise the Melbourne-based firm’s novel nucleoside analogues designed to treat hepatitis C infections.

No specific financial details were given, but the funding is dependent on Biota achieving certain clinical, regulatory and commercialisation milestones. It will receive an initial upfront fee and, in addition, will receive royalties on future sales of products marketed by Boehringer.

Biota chief executive Peter Cook said the deal is further validation of the firm’s antiviral drug discovery capabilities “and our ability to consistently deliver valuable candidates to global pharmaceutical companies.” He added that there is a large unmet medical need for hepatitis C infections due to the limited treatment options available, noting that Boehringer has the financial clout to support late-stage trials.

The deal represents a significant cash boost for Biota which is best-known for developing the first-in-class neuraminidase inhibitor zanamivir, which was subsequently marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as Relenza. The drug is currently being stockpiled by a number of governments for defence against avian influenza and Biota receives royalties from sales of Relenza. The firm also has antiviral deals in place with Japan’s Sankyo.