Swiss drugmaker Roche has inked a novel collaboration agreement with US biotech Amira Pharmaceuticals which covers a broad-ranging project in the area of inflammatory disease and will be funded in part by venture capital.

"In the past, we referred to a 'win-win' alliance between pharma and biotech partners," said Peter Hug, Roche's global head of pharma partnering.

"Through this new model, we have created a 'win-win-win' deal structure where three main players, Roche, Amira and the venture community, are all benefiting from a joint effort to develop potential new medicines for patients." The VCs backing the project include Avalon Ventures, Prospect Ventures and Versant Ventures.

The deal is also unusual because of the status it grants Amira. The biotech start-up gets an option to license two clinical stage compounds from Roche, while Roche will screen its compound repository against three targets and will transfer any hits to Amira. In exchange, Roche will have opt-in rights on two of the programs. If Roche exercises its option, Amira could receive up to $287 million in total event payments, plus royalties.

Meanwhile, should Amira exercise its options, Roche stands to receive ‘a significant percentage’ of Amira's stock, as well as payments of up to $20 million, in addition to royalties.

- Meanwhile, German biotech company Evotec has signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with Roche for two compounds in Phase I clinical development for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The compounds are orally active, selective and reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B). Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.