Asthma venture gives Vectura boost

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Shares in the biotech firm Vectura jumped 8 per cent after it announced a US collaboration with a major drugs company for its experimental asthma treatment.

According to analysts, VR315 is a copycat version of GlaxoSmithKline's top-selling asthma drug Advair, which generated sales of £3bn last year and will lose patent protection in 2010. Although the biotech did not reveal the name of its "leading pharmaceutical" partner, analysts believe it is Novartis's generic drugs arm, Sandoz.

Under the agreement, Vectura will receive a share of profits from all US sales of the drug, as well as up to $63m (£32m) when certain milestones are reached. Costs for development are being split. Vectura will be responsible for the product development of the drug in the US and for establishing the commercial manufacture of its GyroHaler device for use with the product. Its partner will look after the clinical development, manufacture and marketing of the drug.

Combination therapy is the fastest growing sector of the respiratory market, with global annual sales of $8bn. US annual sales are set to exceed $4bn.

Analysts pointed out that if the product is to go head-to-head with Advair, the leading drug in the respiratory market, it must be as effective. Vectura claims its GyroHaler is more convenient and more consistent for patients than other inhalers, its key distinguishing factor being its "excellent moisture protection".

Shares in the company, which announced last month it is to acquire rival Innovata for £128.8m, increased 6.75p to 95p, valuing the company at almost £160m.