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AstraZeneca partners with Rigel on asthma drug

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans to work with AstraZeneca PLC to develop an experimental asthma drug as part of a deal that could be worth more than $100 million.

Rigel said it will receive $1 million upfront from the British drugmaker, and it expects to get another $8.3 million in payments by the end of 2013. The payments could total $100 million if the drug advances through development and is approved for sale. Rigel would also receive royalty payments on sales.

The South San Francisco, Calif., company said the drug candidate has reduced inflammation of the airway and improved lung function in preclinical studies. The product is designated R256 and it has not yet been tested on humans. Rigel has been investigated R256 as a treatment for moderate to severe asthma.

AstraZeneca sells the asthma treatment Symbicort. Earlier this year it started a partnership with biotechnology company Amgen Inc. to research antibodies that could be used to treat asthma and other conditions.

Shares of Rigel Pharmaceuticals rose 40 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $8.98 in morning trading. U.S. shares of AstraZeneca picked up $1.04, or 2.5 percent, to $43.20.