Massachusetts-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals and San Francisco-based Alios BioPharma have entered a worldwide licensing agreement aimed at developing new combinations of medicines for hepatitis C. According to the companies, Alios will receive a $60-million upfront payment from Vertex for exclusive rights to drug candidates ALS-2200 and ALS-2158.

“In addition, Alios would be eligible to receive research and development milestone payments up to $715 million if both compounds are approved,” according to a joint press release. “Vertex expects to pay approximately $35 million in development milestones in 2011. Alios is also eligible to receive up to $750 million in sales milestones on sales of all approved medicines under the collaboration. The agreement also includes tiered royalties on product sales.”  

Vertex is apparently hoping to create an all-oral, interferon-free, combination therapy that could improve the safety, efficacy and ease of administration for hepatitis C patients, according to Alios founder and CEO Lawrence Blatt. “We look forward to initiating clinical development later this year.” See Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Alios BioPharma Press Releases, June 13, 2011.