ImmuPharma and Avion Pharmaceuticals have signed an exclusive licensing agreement for Lupuzor (rigerimod), ImmuPharma’s lead compound, a peptide therapeutic and a first-in class autophagy immunomodulator for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus).

Under the terms of the deal, the companies will co-develop Lupuzor to allow registration for marketing in the US, Europe and elsewhere, and Avion will commercialise the drug exclusively for the US. ImmuPharma will also retain all the rights to commercialise Lupuzor outside of the US, either through distribution partnerships or directly by ImmuPharma.

Further, Avion is set to fund a new international Phase III trial with costs up to $25 million.

Last year Immupharma announced top-line trial results from its pivotal Phase III trial of the drug in lupus, in which it showed statistically significant reductions (71.1% vs 48.8%) in disease activity compared to placebo plus standard of care.

ImmuPharma is “delighted to be entering into this partnership with Avion” explained Dimitri Dimitriou, the company’s chief executive officer, going on to say that it “looks forward to a long and successful relationship with the Avion team and looks forward to sharing updates on progress with shareholders over the next period.”

ImmuPharma will receive milestone payments of up to $70 millions, and a $5 million milestone payment will be paid on the regulatory approval of the drug. The company has also announced that it will receive tiered double-digit royalties up to 17% according to pre-specified annual US sales targets.