AstraZeneca has signed a $340 million dollar deal with Avanir Pharmaceuticals to develop new treatments for cardiovascular disease that could reverse the build up of cholesterol in the tissues and blood vessels and aid its removal from the body.

Under the terms of the agreement, Avanir will receive a $10 million upfront payment, followed by future milestones of up to $330 million, and a royalty on sales of any product that is ultimately commercialised. News of the deal sent the US firm’s share price up by as much as 10%.

The Anglo-Swedish company will be responsible for developing the new products, known as reverse cholesterol transport enhancing compounds, which it says could provide a more effective process for protecting blood vessels from vascular disease induced by abnormal blood lipids. Currently available agents prevent the fuller development of additional lipid rich plaque, but have yet to be proved effective in regressing or decreasing the existing plaque burden. And AstraZeneca is no doubt keen to further enhance its position in the cholesterol-lowering market where it already has a relatively strong foothold with the billion-dollar earner, Crestor (rosuvastatin).