UK biotechnology company Cambridge Antibody Technology posted higher revenues and a first-quarter profit yesterday on the back of royalties from Abbott Laboratories on sales of Humira for rheumatoid arthritis.

CAT swung into an operating profit of £1.2 million for the first three months of the firm’s fiscal year, ended December 31, compared with a loss of £12.4 million a year earlier.

Revenues for the period surged to £14 million from £2.7 million previously, driven by royalties from Humira (adalimumab) which achieved sales of $1.4 billion last year and is tipped to grow to a $1.9 billion product in 2006.

The firm also received a payment of £145 million ($255m) from Abbott to settle a royalty dispute over Humira, and this sum was paid out immediately to CAT’s licensors. The UK firm said it had £152 million in net cash and liquid resources at the end of 2005.

CAT also gave an update on its product pipeline, noting that it has been granted approval to start a second trial of CAT-354, an anti-interleukin 13 antibody being developed initially as a treatment for severe asthma.

Partner Human Genome Sciences will start Phase III trials of Lymphostat-B (belimumab) in the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus later in 2006, added CAT.

In addition, the UK firm said it plans to file for approval to start clinical testing of an anti-transforming growth factor (TGF) beta antibody for cancer in the next few weeks. The antibody, called GC-1008, is being developed by CAT and Genzyme.