British drugmaker Vectura has signed an exclusive deal with Novartis unit Sandoz to develop a generic version of an existing major inhaled combination therapy for asthma and COPD in the US.

Under the terms of this deal, Vectura is responsible for the development of the formulation and manufacture of clinical batches for use in pilot clinical studies whilst Sandoz has taken responsibility for the clinical development, manufacture and commercialisation of the drug, currently called VR2081.

The Chippenham, UK-based group will bank an initial payment of $5 million from Sandoz and is eligible to receive up to a further $5 million upon achievement of pre-determined development milestones, as well as a double digit percentage royalty on net sales.

The total R&D cost borne by Vectura is expected to be below $20 million up to regulatory filing and subsequent launch, which is anticipated in the early to mid-2020’s, the firm noted.

"This agreement, extending our existing strong relationship with Sandoz, further reinforces Vectura’s compelling position as a leader in the development of inhaled novel and generic products leveraging our suite of formulation and device platforms and proven development capabilities,” said Vectura’s chief executive James Ward-Lilley.

After its merger with SkyePharma last year the group said it would prioritise up to five generic projects utilising the Group’s newly combined pMDI and DPI device platforms.

The programme is the first partnered collaboration to be announced from this planned series of projects and “offers substantial potential for future value creation,” he added.