SkyePharma has entered into an exclusive agreement with the USA’s Somnus Therapeutics which sees the latter get development and commercialisation rights to a sleep disorder drug discovered by the UK firm.

SKP-1041 is a new controlled-release formulation of a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic agent which utilises SkyePharma's Geoclock technology and under the terms of the deal, it could receive up to $35 million in milestone payments, of which $4 million is received on signature. $11 million is payable during the development phase, mainly on product approval and $20 million is sales-related.

The firms noted that the first milestone payment will be triggered by the successful completion of a Phase I clinical study of SKP-1041 and SkyePharma will also receive a royalty on future sales escalating upwards from high-mid single digit. Somnus will be responsible for the majority of the development and clinical trial costs and its new partner will formulate and manufacture SKP-1041.

Ex-unit called Pacira Pharma

Meantime, the injectables business that SkyePharma recently sold to US investment consortium Blue Acquisition Corp (now known as Pacira) is to be called Pacira Pharmaceuticals, which bosses say reflects its transformation into “an independent, private company with existing commercial products, a strong product in clinical development, and novel drug delivery technologies”.

The unit was sold for an initial payment of $20 million but a further $62 million may reach the coffers of SkyePharma depending on the completion of the development and future sales of the long-acting local anaesthetic, DepoBupivacaine (bupivacaine).