Bristol-Myers Squibb had dug deep into its pockets to sign a global commercialisation and development agreement for a monoclonal antibody owned by Alder Biopharmaceuticals, in a deal that could bring the latter firm over $1 billion.

The drug giant has bought itself exclusive rights to develop and sell the rheumatoid arthritis biologic ALD518 - which has completed Phase II a clinical trials in rheumatoid arthritis - across all indications except cancer, for which Alder has retained but B-MS has the option to co-develop and commercialise outside the US.

In return, B-MS will pay Alder an upfront fee of $85 million, as well as potential development-based and regulatory-based milestone payments of up to $764 million, sales-based milestones that could exceed $200 million, and royalties on net sales, bring the total to well over the $1-billion mark.

ALD518 is a humanised monoclonal antibody that blocks interleukin-6 (IL-6), a molecule known to play a key role in the inflammatory cascade causing the symptoms experienced by rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, namely inflammation, swelling, pain, and joint destruction.

According to the firm, ALD518 offers a promising new anti-inflammatory mechanism that could result in bone and joint preservation, a key treatment aim, thereby providing patients with “an exciting new option” to manage the disease.

Further Explaining the rationale behind the move, Brian Daniels, senior vice president of Global Development & Medical Affairs at B-MS, said the deal slots in nicely with the group’s 2007 String of Pearls strategy, under which it is attempting to accelerate the discovery and development of new therapies with a string of innovative alliances, partnerships and acquisitions with other companies.

In addition, Daniels said it provides the opportunity “to strengthen our immunoscience pipeline and leverage our company’s experience in developing and delivering novel biologics to help patients prevail over rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, other autoimmune diseases.”