Germany’s Schering and AstraZeneca of the UK have forged a new collaboration with the aim of developing a new class of anti-inflammatory agent – the so-called selective glucocorticoid receptor agonists.

Under the terms of the three-year deal, Schering and AZ will jointly research the SEGRA portfolio held by the German company up to Phase I. At this point, the UK giant will take on the mantle of respiratory diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, while Schering will retain an exclusive license for all other indications. Although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the latter will also receive upfront fees and both companies have the potential to benefit from downstream milestone payments and royalties.

Anti-inflammatory agents have had a bad press of late, following the withdrawal of Merck & Co’s COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx (rofecoxib) last year [[01/10/04a]]. It leaves the door wide open for new compounds to make their mark; at its peak Vioxx reeled in billions of dollars for Merck.