Novartis has taken part in a $30 million financing for Avila Therapeutics and also signed a development deal that could be worth over $200 million to the “protein silencing” specialist.

The Novartis Option Fund, part of the Swiss firm’s venture capital operations, led the round in which all existing Avila investors participated. In addition, it has entered into an option agreement focusing on a programme Avila’s novel covalent drugs, which ‘silence’ disease-causing proteins by establishing an enduring bond, which the firm says exceeds the more temporary ‘binding’ of conventional treatments.

Cashwise, the deal includes upfront and potential milestones payments totalling over $200 million plus royalties. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based firm is developing a pipeline of protein-silencing treatments, with a current focus on viral infection, cancer and autoimmune diseases, and Henry Skinner, managing director of the Novartis Option Fund, said “we are excited about the opportunity presented by Avila’s innovative approach”.

He added that his group selected an early programme that validates Avila’s Avilomics platform which offers “a unique product opportunity for Novartis”. Katrine Bosley, Avila’s chief executive, said the deal is a strong complement to Novartis’ equity investment, adding that “we anticipate establishing a select number of strategic relationships in order to take full advantage of the breadth and depth of the Avilomics platform, and we’re very pleased to have Novartis as the first.”

Avila is funded by venture capital groups Abingworth, Advent, Atlas and Polaris, plus the Novartis Option Fund now, which has a warchest of $200 million to seed innovative companies.