Bristol-Myers Squibb has signed an agreement with Allergan giving it global rights to an investigational pain compound which is about to go into mid-stage trials.

The New York-based major is getting access to AGN-209323, described as a “Phase II-ready, orally administered small molecule in clinical development for neuropathic pain”. Under the terms of the deal, B-MS will make a $40 million upfront payment and Allergan will be eligible for development- and regulatory-based milestones of up to $373 million, plus royalties.

The agreement covers all potential indications, except ophthalmology indications for products formulated for local delivery to the eye, where Allergan, an eyecare specialist, will retain certain rights.

Francis Cuss, senior vice president of discovery and exploratory clinical research at B-MS, said there is “significant unmet medical need for a more efficacious and tolerable therapy for neuropathic pain. He added that this “potential first-in-class compound…could help patients prevail over chronic pain” and will “strengthen our neuroscience pipeline”. As for Allergan, chief scientific officer Scott Whitcup said “we are fortunate to have a deep R&D pipeline, and believe that by partnering programmes that extend into primary care, we can maximise the value of our science”.

AGN-209323 was discovered by Allergan and ExonHit Therapeutics and the B-MS pact is also good news for the French firm’s coffers. It will receive an upfront payment of $4 million and possible milestone payments exceeding $32 million, plus royalties