The deal is a first of its kind for a pharmacutical-biotech partnership as it consists of a research alliance and an option for Amira to license two clinical stage compounds from Roche.
"In the past, we referred to a 'win-win' alliance between pharma and biotech partners," said Peter Hug, Roche's global head of Pharma Partnering.
"Through this new model, we have created a 'win-win-win' deal structure where three main players, Roche, Amira and the venture community, are all benefiting from a joint effort to develop potential new medicines for patients," he added.
Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will screen its compound repository against three targets and will transfer any hits to Amira. In exchange, Roche will have opt-in rights on two of the programs.
If Roche exercises its option, Amira could receive up to $287 million (€233 million) in total event payments, plus royalties.
In addition, Amira will have a one-year option to license two of Roche's existing clinical stage programs, in specific indications. Should Amira exercise its option to these programs, Roche may receive a percentage of Amira's stock.
Additionally, if these two programs meet all development events, Roche could receive up to $20 million, in addition to royalties.
The agreement plays to each company's strengths and research expertise in a market that is expected to achieve estimated sales of $4.5 billion in 2011. A spokesperson for Roche told DrugResearcher.com: "Regarding the research collaboration, the program is in its very early stages, and thus too early to discuss in detail."
"Regarding Amira's option to Roche's established clinical programs, one is TACE (Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Converting Enzyme inhibitor), a phase I ant-inflammatory program in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). The second is P38, is a protein kinase inhibitor program also in phase 1 clinical development."
The deal is also funded by investors that include Avalon Ventures, Prospect Ventures and Versant Ventures.
"The investors are impressed that a broad, strategic pharma partnership could be established at such an early stage in the development of Amira," said Brad Bolzon, Managing Director at Versant Ventures.
"Together with financing from Avalon, Prospect and Versant, this deal should enable Amira to rapidly build itself into a strong R&D based company in this important therapeutic area."