Dermavant Sciences, a subsidiary of Roivant Sciences, has signed an exclusive agreement to licence the development and commercial rights of tapinarof in Japan.

Japan Tobacco’s (JT) pharmaceutical business acquired the rights that will enable the company to develop, register and market the drug candidate.

Concurrently, JP also signed an agreement with its subsidiary Torii Pharmaceutical for the joint development of tapinarof in the country.

Tapinarof is an investigational therapeutic aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulating agent (TAMA) designed to treat psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and other dermatological diseases and conditions.

As agreed, Dermavant will receive an upfront payment of $60m for the deal. The company can also earn up to $53m as milestone payments. Further, it is entitled to receive royalties based on product sales of tapinarof for the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

Dermavant CEO Todd Zavodnick said: “Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis affect millions of people worldwide, including nearly 13 million in Japan alone.

“Having seen the very encouraging results from Phase IIb studies for tapinarof conducted in North America and Japan for the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, we are grateful to partner with JT and its subsidiary, Torii, two prominent and well-respected leaders in dermatology.

“JT and Torii share our commitment to finding novel, safe, and effective treatment options for patients in Japan suffering from these debilitating immuno-dermatologic diseases.”

Currently, Tapinarof is under Phase III development in the US.

Subject to positive results from the Phase III study, Dermavant plans to file a New Drug Application for tapinarof topical cream in the US next year for treating plaque psoriasis.

Notably, Dermavant acquired the rights of tapinarof from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2018, valued at $250m.