Having recently decided not to continue development of olokizumab despite positive mid-stage results, UCB has decided to out-license the rheumatoid arthritis drug to Russia's R-Pharm.
The privately-owned company based in Moscow has been granted rights to develop and commercialize olokizumab in all indications, but is pursuing RA. In September last year, UCB said subcutaneous olokizumab met the primary endpoint in a Phase IIb trial but discontinued internal development of the compound because the data suggested that olokizumab was 'merely' comparable to Roche's already-marketed RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab); both of the humanised monoclonal antibodies target the IL-6 cytokine.
Under the terms of the agreement, the financials for which were not disclosed, R-Pharm will develop, register, manufacture, distribute and book sales globally. UCB gets an upfront payment and is entitled to receive payments on development and commercialisation milestones, plus royalties.
UCB chief executive Roch Doliveux said that the firm was "very satisfied" with the mid-stage results but "following the prioritisation of UCB’s rich pipeline, we took the portfolio decision to partner olokizumab".
R-Pharm is the first Russian drugmaker to get a license to develop a treatment on a global basis and chairman Alexey Repik said "we highly appreciate the confidence in us and do believe that the strategic collaboration with UCB will contribute to decrease the burden of diseases".
Chief executive Vasily Ignatyev told the Moscow Times that the firm will spend tens of millions of dollars on clinical trials and subsequent registration of the medication worldwide. He hopes olokizumab will reach the market in Russia in 2016, before introducing it in other countries over the following two years.