Bristol-Myers Squibb signed a definitive agreement with Japan’s biotech firm Oncolys BioPharma  for festinavir, a next-generation, orally available nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor in Phase II development for HIV.

BMS will acquire exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture, develop and commercialize festinavir. In return, Oncolys may receive up to $286 million including upfront, development, regulatory and sales milestone payments. Oncolys is also eligible to receive tiered royalties on the worldwide product sales.

“For many years I have been working for the development of medicines in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and I’m convinced that festinavir has the possibility to be a potent and effective NRTI with a promising resistance profile,” says Yasuo Urata, president and CEO of Oncolys ”Also festinavir’s once-daily dosage is essential for treating HIV patients worldwide.”

 The new partners noted that early preclinical studies suggest that festinavir,  licensed to Oncolys in 2006 from Yale University, could have an improved safety profile over previous generations of NRTIs.

 ”The profile of festinavir offers the possibility of improvement in the safety of long-term HIV treatment, an area of significant unmet medical need”, said Brian Daniels, senior vice president of development at B-MS.