GlaxoSmithKline has sold rights to an experimental therapy with potential in psoriasis and dermatitis to Dermavant in a deal worth $330 million.

Tapinarof is an investigational therapeutic aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulating agent (TAMA) which has been evaluated as a topical therapy in multiple Phase I and Phase II studies involving over 800 human subjects.

In one placebo-controlled, global Phase IIb dose-ranging study, 56 percent of patients in the tapinarof 1 percent once-daily group, and 46 percent of patients in the tapinarof 0.5 percent once-daily group, achieved 75 percent or greater improvement in Psoriasis Area and Severity Index scores (PASI 75) after 12 weeks of treatment, compared to 5 percent in the placebo once-daily group.

Explaining the rationale behind the sale, John Lepore, senior vice president, R&D pipeline, at GSK, said the firm is has taken a strategic decision to divest or partner medicines in its R&D portfolio “that are a better fit for other companies allowing us to concentrate our resources on other promising assets”.

Tapinarof, he said, has the potential to be a first-in-class therapy and a once-daily topical agent that delays or even eliminates the need for systemic treatment in psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

“We are confident that Dermavant is well positioned to progress rapidly with the tapinarof development programme into phase III and registration.”

Painkiller dispute

Meanwhile, the drugs giant has suffered a defeat in a UK dispute relating to the name of an over-the-counter painkiller.

Apollo Generics applied to register its brand Zanamol as a UK trade mark in October 2016, but this was opposed by GSK on the grounds that it was too similar in name and class specification to its paracetamol-based painkiller Panadol.

According to GSK, there was a likelihood of confusion between the trade marks, but the UK Intellectual Property Office disagreed, ruling in favour of Apollo.