MediGene has completed the acquisition of UK firm Avidex for 50 million euros ($64m), boosting its drug development pipeline with drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

Heading the list is RhuDex, an orally-available CD80 inhibitor for rheumatoid arthritis just about to start Phase II testing which has an estimated peak sales potential of 1.5 billion euros, according to MediGene.

The German company has one product on the market - Eligard (leuprolide) for prostate cancer which is sold by Astellas in the European Union, but suffered a pipeline disappointment earlier this year when the US Food and Drug Administration extended its deadline for the review of genital wart drug Polyphenon E, putting back any launch for the product into 2007.

Meanwhile MediGene also said yesterday that it had been awarded a US patent on EndoTAG-1, a drug candidate combining the cancer drug paclitaxel and a carrier molecule that directs it towards newly-formed blood vessels. MediGene started Phase II trials of EndoTAG-1 in combination with Eli Lilly’s Gemzar (gemcitabine) in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. First data are expected late this year.