Biogen has licensed a late-stage stroke drug that could be the first treatment advance in the therapy area since the 1990s.

The US biotech will pay Remedy Pharmaceuticals $120 million for Cirara, which is heading towards Phase III trials in ischaemic stroke.

If it makes it to the market Cirara could be the first new stroke treatment since alteplase, which was some 20 years ago and remains the only approved therapy for the condition.

Biogen's executive vice president for R&D Michael Ehlers said: "Cirara represents a potential breakthrough stroke treatment that accelerates our efforts to build a portfolio of new therapies for neurologic diseases.

"We believe the data supporting the potential of Cirara are compelling and that [it] can be a first-in-class therapy that gives physicians the ability to meaningfully improve patient outcomes in an area where effective treatments have been few and far between."

Cirara is an intravenous formulation of glyburide - which is well-established as an oral treatment for type 2 diabetes - and Remedy has been looking to repurpose it for stroke.

It had mixed success in a Phase II trial, managing a 25 percent drop in neurological death against a 7 percent reduction with placebo, but it missed its primary endpoint of reducing the need for surgical intervention.

Nonetheless, the FDA has approved a Phase III trial of Cirara and awarded the drug orphan status and added it to the Fast Track review programme.