GSK has given Futura a down-payment of £150,000 (€220,000) to start negotiations and carry out pilot studies of its DermaSys technology, a gel-based system for delivering drugs through the skin, in the area of pain relief. Futura's lead product in the pain arena is TPR100, which is due to start Phase I testing shortly, according to the UK company. The two companies are already working together on MED2002, another product based on the DermaSys gel that is intended as a rub-on treatment for erectile dysfunction. Last July, the drug major agreed to pay two thirds of the total development costs for MED2002, estimated at around $5m. Under the terms of the latest agreement, GSK will negotiate with Futura over the global distribution rights to the product on an exclusive basis until no later than 31 March 2008. "DermaSys is a versatile and bespoke technology in that it can be tailored to suit the specific active compound being used and the therapeutic indication," said Futura. "Such targeted delivery offers an optimised profile in terms of dose, onset time and duration of effect as well as an improved safety profile through lower systemic uptake and the reduced risk of side effects." The technology takes the form of a gel that incorporates volatile solvents which evaporate on contact with the skin. As the gel dries, the concentration of the active rises until it becomes 'supersaturated', driving the drug across the skin. Studies indicate that DermaSys can deliver active into target tissues within three minutes. Moreover, very little of the drug enters the blood, so systemic exposure is limited, according to Futura. The UK company is perhaps best known for its condom product based on glyceryl trinitrate, a vasodilator drug, designed to help men maintain a full erection during intercourse and prevent the condom slipping off.