The FTSE 100-listed group will pay US$17mln for an exclusive licence to develop Redx’s RXC006, a porcupine inhibitor, for fibrotic diseases.
If the drug makes it to market, Redx will receive up to a further US$360mln in development and commercial milestones, plus tiered royalties.
The new drug will target diseases such as Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), where progressive scarring of the lungs (fibrosis) is usually fatal and the prognosis worse than many cancers.
Porcupine inhibition is an approach that suppresses Wnt ligand secretion from pro-fibrotic cells, said Redx. Wnt ligands are known to be strong drivers of fibrotic mechanisms found in diseases such as IPF, it added.
Redx said it will continue to work on other drugs in its programme including oral porcupine inhibitor, RXC004, targeting Wnt-driven tumours, which is in an ongoing phase 1/2 clinical trial in oncology patients and oral ROCK2 inhibitor, RXC007, which also targets fibrosis and where first in human studies are expected in 2021.
In a statement, Lisa Anson, Redx chief executive, said: "This agreement, where AstraZeneca will license this first in class porcupine inhibitor for IPF and progress it into development, highlights, once again, Redx's ability to generate molecules that have significant potential as novel medicines."
Mene Pangalos, executive vice president BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca added: "Fibrotic diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis have a significant impact on patients' lives and new therapies are urgently needed.
"We look forward to progressing this porcupine inhibitor into clinical trials as a novel approach to suppress Wnt signalling and potentially modify fibrotic disease processes."
Shares in Redx leapt 200% to 75p.