Spectrum Pharmaceuticals has signed an agreement with Viropro to develop a biosimilar version of Roche’s rituximab cancer medication, ahead of its 2015 patent expiry.

Rituximab, used in the treatment of lymphomas, leukemias and some autoimmune disorders, achieved worldwide sales of approximately $5.6bn in 2009.

Biotech manufacturer Viropro said Spectrum will license the rights to specific technologies and announced it would receive milestone payments over 36 months, as well as royalty payments.

Financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed.