By John Carroll

Forest Laboratories has nabbed the U.S. development rights to Nycomed's experimental therapy for smoker's lung, paying $100 million upfront for the right to make and market the potential blockbuster Daxas.

Forest also committed itself to up to $500 million in milestones in the deal for Daxas, according to a Reuters report. Daxas is currently up for approval in Europe and the U.S. as a new therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which ranks as the world's fifth biggest cause of death. If approved, Forest would hand it over to a sales force of 2,700 working throughout the U.S. They would go head-to-head with Advair, a drug marketed by GlaxoSmithKline, and Spiriva, sold by Boehringer Ingelheim. Advair earned more than $6 billion in 2006.

Nycomed has built a powerful case for Daxas, offering data from four Phase III trials of the new oral therapy. The drug, acquired in its 2006 buyout of Altana, targets the phosphodiesterase 4 enzyme, which is involved in inflammation. Nycomed filed for approval in the U.S. on July 20.

"Nycomed has demonstrated great dedication in bringing Daxas to its current NDA stage of development and we are looking forward to working with such a talented and committed group as we consider ways to further develop and expand the use of Daxas," said Forest CEO Howard Solomon. "Daxas represents the first in a new class of agents to treat COPD and would be the first oral agent to be approved for this debilitating disease."