MGI Pharma has licensed its blood disorder drug Dacogen to Cilag, a unit of healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, in a deal which could total some $80 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, J&J has acquired rights to the agent in all territories except North America, which MGI will retain, and responsibility for carrying out regulatory and commercial development will be split in the same way.

In return for its licence, J&J will pay MGI $10 million upfront and up to $47 million on attaining certain pre-specified developmental and sales targets, all of which will be shared with SuperGen as MGI originally bought worldwide rights to Dacogen from the firm in 2004.

In addition, J&J has pledged to support MGI’s R&D activities in the next three years with $25 million, and the company stands to receive “significant” percentage royalties from J&J’s specified territories, which it will also split with SuperGen.

Dacogen (decitabine) was recently cleared by US regulators as a treatment for patients with myelodysplastic syndromes, a group of bone marrow diseases that can progress to acute leukaemia. MGI is also conducting a Phase III pivotal trial to assess the drug in patients with acute myeloid leukaemia, or AML, as well as additional Phase II trials evaluating alternative dosing regimens in patients with MDS, AML and chronic myelogenous leukaemia.