Merck has signed a collaboration agreement with the UK’s Avillion under which the latter will develop the German drug giant’s anti IL-17 A/F Nanobody as a treatment for plaque psoriasis.

The experimental therapy, to which Merck picked up global rights from Ablynx in 2013, has completed Phase I development and is expected to begin Phase II in plaque psoriasis in 2017.

Under a collaboration model that is gaining traction in the biopharma industry, Avillion will be responsible for developing the therapy from Phase II through Phase III development and, if the treatment makes it to market, Merck will take over its commercialisation.

The deal, says Belén Garijo, member of the Executive Board of Merck and chief executive of Healthcare, “will allow us to optimally deliver on the potential of IL-17, a compound which could address several areas of unmet need for patients today”.

“In parallel, we have several highly promising priority clinical assets in our pipeline, all of which we must continue to drive in-house. By partnering appropriately, not only can we maintain the internal focus on our R&D innovation strategy, but also maximise other opportunities that emerge from our pipeline.”

“This agreement is a further endorsement of our innovative business model,” added Allison Jeynes-Ellis, chief executive of Avillion. “We are very encouraged that our collaborative approach to advancing the development of clinical candidates and boosting our partners’ R&D productivity is gaining such awareness in the biopharma industry.”

Further terms of the deal were not disclosed at this time.