Novartis has agreed to acquire anti-inflammatory group IFM Tre, a subsidiary of IFM Therapeutics, in a deal worth up to $1.57bn.

Under a definitive agreement, Novartis will buy all outstanding capital stock of IFM Tre and make upfront payments of $310m. IFM will receive up to $1.265bn in milestone payments.

Launched last July, IFM Tre is developing NLRP3 antagonists to treat inflammatory disorders.

The company’s clinical asset is a systemic antagonist dubbed IFM-2427, which is intended for a variety of chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

It is also developing two pre-clinical candidates, namely a gut-directed molecule for inflammatory bowel disease and a central nervous system (CNS)-penetrant molecule.

“We look forward to applying our deep expertise in this field to advancing these medicines through the clinic and to patients who need them.”

The deal will provide Novartis with full rights to the clinical and preclinical anti-inflammatory programmes.

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Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research president Jay Bradner said: “IFM Tre’s compounds have demonstrated that they can fine-tune the immune system, offering a potentially potent approach for treating a large variety of diseases associated with inflammation.

“We look forward to applying our deep expertise in this field to advancing these medicines through the clinic and to patients who need them.”

NLRP3 is an intracellular innate immune signalling receptor that allows the body’s immune cells to detect pathogens and endogenous molecules that signal infection, tissue damage or metabolic disorders.

When activated, NLRP3 induces an inflammatory response through the formation of a multi-protein complex, called the inflammasome, which can fight against foreign pathogens.

However, chronic activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome could lead to multiple diseases.

In preclinical studies, IFM Tre’s molecules demonstrated ability to selectively suppress inflammation caused by the NLRP3 inflammasome and enable the immune system to continue normal inflammatory responses.

IFM Therapeutics CEO and co-founder Gary Glick said: “We look forward to collaborating with Novartis, while continuing to develop programmes that target other components of the innate immune system through IFM Due and the broader IFM enterprise.”

The deal has been approved by IFM board of directors and stockholders.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed during the second quarter of this year.