LONDON - British Biotech plc has outlicensed lexipafant, an anti-inflammatory that failed in Phase III in acute pancreatitis, to DevCo Pharmaceuticals Ltd., a virtual development company specializing in central nervous system disorders.

Kevin Wilkinson, CEO of DevCo, told BioWorld International, "The initial indication which we will take forward is in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction and renal complications experienced by patients having cardiac surgery." Under terms of the agreement, DevCo has the rights to develop, manufacture and sell lexipafant, a platelet activating factor (PAF) antagonist, in any disease area other than oncology and ophthalmology. British Biotech will provide data from its Phase III trials in pancreatitis, in which over 1,700 patients were enrolled, and supply previously manufactured lexipafant.

Elliot Goldstein, CEO of Oxford-based British Biotech, said DevCo is the ideal company to investigate lexipafant in a range of diseases. "British Biotech's own development resources, as previously stated, are focused on other areas."

This is the third licensing deal that DevCo, based in Guildford, UK, announced in March. Wilkinson said this was "the fruit of labor since the company was founded in late 1997 coming through."

DevCo agreed to a deal with Laboratorios Dr Esteve SA, of Barcelona, Spain, to develop two compounds, E-6276 and E-5826, for the treatment of schizophrenia and pain, and an option to take a third compound, E5826, into Phase II in schizophrenia. The compounds have novel binding profiles, combining a high affinity for opioid and serotogenic receptors.

Earlier last month, privately held DevCo announced a license with AMRAD Corp., an Australian biotechnology company, to develop one of AMRAD's lead discovery compounds, AM36, as a treatment for stroke. AM36 has combined antioxidant- and sodium channel- blocking activity, and has been shown to protect against the death of neurons in the brain and motor function impairment, when administered up to three hours after stroke. This exceeds the neuroprotective time window of other compounds.

DevCo currently has three compounds in Phase II and three going into Phase I. Its strategy is to acquire licenses, design development programs in conjunction with the pharmaceutical partners, and outsource development work. "The advantage we bring is our neuroscience focus, coupled with our project management expertise," Wilkinson said. "Most companies have limits on the R&D budget. We do the financing and development and companies have the right to get compounds back."