BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON The drug delivery company SkyePharma plc is buying the remaining 60 percent of the Canadian company RTP Pharma in an all-share deal valued at US$20.6 million. Also, the company secured US$30 million in cash from Paul Capital Royalty Acquisition Fund LP to fund the clinical development of both RTP’s reformulated version of the anesthetic propofol, and SkyePharma’s reformulation of the asthma drug formoterol.

SkyePharma, based in London, acquired its initial 40 percent holding in RTP, a nanoparticulate technology specialist, in August 2001 for US$20 million in shares and $5 million cash.

Michael Ashton, SkyePharma CEO, said he was impressed by RTP’s portfolio of more than 10 projects. “Combining our own nanoparticulate portfolio with that of RTP positions [us] as a world leader in using this technology to enhance solubilization, thereby improving the commercial value of poorly soluble drugs.”

Reformulated propofol will enter Phase IIb trials during the next three months, and has a target launch date of 2005. Propofol is the active ingredient in AstraZeneca plc’s injectable anesthetic Diprivan, which had sales of US$507 million in 2000.

SkyePharma’s formulation of the beta-2 agonist, formaterol, for treating asthma will enter clinical trials in 2002 and has a target launch date of 2004.

RTP’s lead product in development is a new formulation of the lipid-lowering drug fenofibrate. The product is in late-stage clinical development and is licensed to an undisclosed pharmaceutical company. RTP also has alliances with Baxter Healthcare, Schering Plough Corp. and others to reformulate drugs using its insoluble drug delivery technology.

Other products in development include reformulated cyclosporin and busulfan, and RTP filed for approval on two compounds, a human oral product and an injectable veterinary product.

Under the deal with Paul Capital, until 2015 SkyePharma will hand over between 4 percent and 20 percent of the annual royalties and revenues from six RTP products and three SkyePharma products. The 20 percent rate will apply from 2004 to 2008, falling to 12.5 percent and then 4 percent. If royalty shares do not meet minimum returns, SkyePharma may issue shares at up to a value of $7.5 million.

Ashton said the funding would make an important contribution to future growth, adding significant future value. “It provides, at a very modest share of future revenues, the possibility to develop two exciting new products.”

This is second time SkyePharma has raised money by selling royalty rights. In January 2001 it agreed to a $30 million deal with Paul Capital to fund Phase III trials of Depomorphine, a sustained-release formulation of morphine.