Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has entered into an exclusive option agreement to acquire Denmark-based Galecto Biotech and receive worldwide rights to its inhaled inhibitor of galectin-3, TD139.

Galectin-3 is a protein that binds to carbohydrate structures in the body, and plays a crucial role in various types of fibrosis.

TD139 is currently in Phase I development for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other pulmonary fibrotic conditions.

Including the option fee, an option exercise fee and subsequent clinical and regulatory milestone payments, total aggregate payments under the deal are expected to be $444m.

Bristol-Myers Squibb executive vice-president Francis Cuss said: "Delivering innovative medicines that halt or slow the progression of fibrotic diseases is a key part of our R&D strategy to build a sustainable pipeline.

"As part of the deal, BMS can exercise the option to acquire Galecto no later than 60 days following completion of the Phase Ib trial."

"TD139 provides Bristol-Myers Squibb an opportunity to advance the company’s fibrosis development program with the addition of a promising compound that has the potential to modulate multiple disease pathways."

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As part of the deal, BMS can exercise the option to acquire Galecto no later than 60 days following completion of the Phase Ib trial.

Both companies agreed on pre-clinical studies and a Phase I development plan, which will be carried out by Galecto during the option period.

Galecto Biotech CEO Hans Schambye said: "Galecto, in close collaboration with our founders, managed to demonstrate the importance of galectin-3 as an anti-fibrosis target."

BMS is involved in developing an early stage fibrosis portfolio, which includes BMS-986020, a lysophosphatidic acid 1 (LPA1) receptor antagonist in development for the treatment of IPF.

Image: Bristol-Myers-Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute on Reeds Lane is responsible for the discovery and development of new medicines. Photo: courtesy of Sue Adair.