Belgium’s UCB says it is committed to carrying on development of an experimental lung cancer drug after US partner ImClone Systems said it was opting out of the pact to concentrate on one of its own compounds.

The two firms were working together on CDP-791, UCB's proprietary antibody product candidate targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 pathway. The Belgian group now gets the global rights to Imclone's intellectual property for the lung cancer drug and will pay the latter royalties on future sales.

UCB’s executive vice president of R&D, Melanie Lee, said the firm will continue to fully develop CDP-791 and intends to globally market “this promising compound.” She added that the development of CDP-791 is progressing well “and we are eagerly awaiting the results of the Phase IIa evaluation in the next couple of months, as planned."

ImClone says it has pulled out of the partnership “in order to focus its resources” on the development of IMC-1121B, its own antibody product candidate that targets VEGFr-2. Chief medical officer Eric Rowinsky said that the drug is “living up to robust preclinical activity” with a favourable safety profile, and added that “we are on target to complete Phase I studies of IMC-1121B on several administration schedules in the first half of 2007.”

- Meantime, UCB has signed a deal with BioWa of New Jersey, USA which gives it access to the latter’s Potelligent technology platform for the development of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity- enhanced antibodies. In return, BioWa will receive licence fees, milestone payments and royalties on products developed by UCB. Details of financial terms were not disclosed.