Roche has signed a licensing agreement with Japan’s Toyama Chemical Co to develop the latter’s oral rheumatoid arthritis agent T-5224 for worldwide research, development and commercialisation.

Under the terms of the deal, Toyama has granted Roche exclusive worldwide rights for the Phase I drug, excluding Japan, and will receive upfront and milestone payments of up to $370 million, with further royalties based on net sales.

Jean-Jacques Garaud, head of Roche Pharma Development, said that this novel oral compound complements the firm's developing portfolio of drug candidates in inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. “T-5224 has the potential to inhibit a key trigger of rheumatoid arthritis and has already shown promising pharmacological efficacy and safety in early clinical studies," he added.

Roche has frequently spoken of expanding its anti-inflammatory franchise disease franchise and recently reported positive Phase III results for its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra (tocilizumab).