Fox Searchlight Pictures has acquired worldwide rights to 28 Days Later, the next film from director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald, continuing 20th Century Fox's relationship with the British film-making duo after A Life Less Ordinary (1997) and The Beach (2000).

The $15m film is to be co-financed by Searchlight and The Film Council via DNA Films, the UK lottery franchise holder which Macdonald heads with Duncan Kenworthy.

Universal Pictures, with which DNA has a worldwide distribution deal, is understood to have passed on the film, which is the story of a deadly virus which sweeps the planet, leaving a handful of survivors to salvage a future from the apocalypse. It was written by Alex Garland, the novelist who wrote The Beach.

Universal's specialised label Universal Focus has so far released only one DNA film, the poorly received Beautiful Creatures although it has Strictly Sinatra, which premieres at the Seattle International Film Festival this week, scheduled for release in July. No dates are yet established for DNA's other nearly completed films The Final Curtain or The Parole Officer.

"We are pleased to have found a home for 28 Days Later with Fox Searchlight because of the company's commitment to and respect for the filmmaker's voice," said Macdonald in a statement. "Through our past days with Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight, we have found him to be a studio head with tremendous vision." Prior to taking over Searchlight, Rice was the creative executive who worked with Boyle and Macdonald on The Beach.

ICM brokered the deal between Boyle and Macdonald and Fox Searchlight.