Novartis Adds Inflammation Drugs to Pipeline with Deal for IFM Tre

Xconomy Boston — 

Less than a year after launching and only days after advancing its lead program into clinical trials, drug developer IFM Tre is in line to be acquired by Novartis.

According to an agreement announced Monday, Novartis (NYSE: NVS) will acquire all of the outstanding stock of privately held IFM. The Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant will pay IFM $310 million up front, plus $1.26 billion in milestone payments pegged to the progress of its experimental drugs.

Boston-based IFM focuses on developing anti-inflammatory drugs that target NLR, a group of proteins responsible for detecting cellular threats. After detecting a threat, IFM says some of these proteins form a structure called an inflammasome, which activates inflammation. While this response can have a protective role, in some cases it’s part of an inflammatory disorder. IFM’s drugs are intended to block inflammasome activity without affecting appropriate immune responses.

Last week, a clinical trial for IFM’s lead program, IFM-2427, dosed its first patient. The company says the drug could potentially treat a number of chronic inflammatory disorders, such as gout, atherosclerosis, and the liver disorder nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The Phase 1 study is expected to enroll up to 90 patients.

The IFM pipeline also includes a preclinical drug that works in the gut to prevent inflammatory bowel disease. Another preclinical IFM compound that targets the central nervous system is being developed for potential applications in neurodegenerative disorders.

IFM Tre was formed around some of the remaining assets of IFM Therapeutics, a biotech startup that was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) in 2017. When IFM Tre debuted last July, some of the $31 million it raised to fund the company came from the original backers of IFM Therapeutics.

Novartis says the IFM Tre programs complement its pipeline of anti-inflammatory drugs. The companies expect the transaction to close in the second quarter of this year.

Photo by Flickr user Matthias Mendler via a Creative commons license