Spain’s Zeltia says that its PharmaMar has signed a licensing agreement with Taiho Pharmaceutical for its anti-cancer agent Yondelis in Japan.

Under the terms of the deal, PharmaMar will get an upfront payment of one billion yen (just over $10.3 million) and will be entitled to other milestone payments and double-digit royalties. Taiho will be responsible for further development costs and the commercialisation of Yondelis (trabectedin).

Yondelis, a marine-based anticancer drug derived from the sea-squirt, is approved in Europe as a second-line treatment for advanced soft tissue sarcoma. Zeltia’s US partner, Johnson & Johnson, returned the Japanese rights to the therapy last July,

PharmaMar's director-general Luis Mora said the firm was pleased to be linking up with the “number one oncology company in Japan”. He added that the country makes up roughly 11% of global oncology sales, claiming that with Taiho “we have found a deeply committed partner” that wants to get Yondelis into that market “without delay”.

Taiho president Toru Usami noted that PharmaMar is the world leader in marine biopharmaceuticals and as well as for advanced soft tissue sarcoma, Yondelis shows considerable promise as a potential treatment for ovarian cancer. The drug was filed last year with regulators in Europe and USA as a treatment for ovarian cancer when used in combination with liposomal doxorubicin, sold by Schering-Plough in Europe as Caelyx and by J&J unit Ortho Biotech in the USA as Doxil.

News of the deal with Taiho went down well with Zeltia's shareholders and the stock ended the day up 7% at 3.06 euros.