Takeda has pulled the plug on veltuzumab, an anti-CD20 antibody licensed from Immunomedics for non-cancer indications.

The move comes after Immunomedics filed arbitration proceedings to resolve a dispute it has with Nycomed (bought by Takeda two years ago) concerning delays in the development of veltuzumab. The US biotech is arguing that the alleged delay is a material breach of a licensing agreement signed in July 2008.

Takeda has terminated the pact so all rights to veltuzumab will revert to Immunomedics which says that "both parties have begun discussions regarding the transition". However, the latter will continue with its claim for damages.

Cynthia Sullivan, chief executive at Immunomedics, said "I want to emphasise that this transfer of veltuzumab back to us is not due to a lack of efficacy or safety of the antibody but a lack of progress with its development". She added that "we have begun the process of evaluating our options for this important antibody".

Takeda had been developing veltuzumab for rheumatoid arthritis and immune thrombocytopenic purpura, while Immunomedics is investigating its potential in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The latter's lead product is epratuzumab, which is currently in two Phase III trials in lupus and is partnered with UCB.