Amgen partners with Unilife on wearable injectors, may buy 20% stake in the struggling company

It's a happy new year for wearable insulin patch pump maker Unilife.

On Dec. 31, the struggling York, PA, micro-cap inked a nonexclusive deal with Amgen ($AMGN) to supply the Big Biotech with already existing wearable injector devices "for use with certain large volume drug products," as well as its 1-mL wearable injector "for use with certain small volume drug products."

The move puts rumors of the company's eventual sale to bed, at least for now.

Under the terms of the deal, Unilife ($UNIS) receives a $15 million upfront payment from Amgen, as well as payments for each device manufactured, which depend on the annual volume and device features. Amgen has a right to source and/or sublicense manufacturing of up to 20% of its total annual volume needs for the devices.

And the agreement calls for the two companies to exclusively negotiate a grand alliance until at least Jan. 31. It would culminate in Amgen making an additional cash payment in return for purchasing up to 19.9% of Unilife's common stock, gaining the preferred right of access to new delivery platforms and entering into a manufacturing arrangement, among other subagreements specified in the SEC filing.

Unilife shares opened the new year at $1.00, up from 50 cents. With a share price in the penny stock range and market cap around $96 million, the deal is not a panacea for the company. But it does provide it with much-needed positive momentum on Wall Street and otherwise.

In September, the company laid off 50 employees as it focused on commercializing its Imperium line of insulin patch pumps.

But it has had some success signing drug delivery partnerships with industry bigwigs, including a deal in November to supply AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Medimmune with wearable injectors for a late-stage monoclonal antibody in the pipeline. And in January of last year, it received $5 million from AbbVie ($ABBV) for the use of its devices in therapies to treat autoimmune diseases.

- here's the SEC filing