Novartis has signed a deal with the USA’s Incyte Corp to get the rights to two investigational therapies that treat patients with “life-threatening blood disorders and cancers”.

The first compound covered by the agreement is a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor, INCB18424, which is in Phase III trials for myelofibrosis. This is a life-threatening neoplastic condition that has no effective medical treatment, Novartis noted, characterised by varying degrees of bone marrow failure, enlarged spleen and debilitating symptoms.

The Swiss major has bagged the non-US rights to the JAK inhibitor and believes that it has “the potential of becoming a first-in-class therapeutic agent for the treatment of this and other haematologic diseases”.

The second deal gives Novartis global rights to a mesenchymal-epithelial transition factor kinase (cMET) inhibitor, INCB28060, which is about to enter Phase I development. Emerging evidence indicates that cMET inhibition may be useful in the treatment of certain cancers, including gastric and kidney cancer, the Basel-headquartered firm noted, and may help to overcome resistance to some targeted therapies, such as AstraZeneca’s Iressa (gefitinib) in non-small cell lung cancer.

Cashwise, Novartis will pay a $150 million upfront fee and a first milestone payment of $60 million to coincide with the initiation of the European Phase III trial of the JAK inhibitor that began in July. Incyte is eligible for various development and commercialisation payments of around $1.1 billion, plus royalties, and has retained an option to co-develop and co-promote INCB28060.

Incyte's chief executive Paul Friedman noted that the agreement “reflects our objective to retain US rights to INCB18424”. He added that it “puts us in a strong position to transition Incyte into a successful commercial company with sufficient resources to continue to advance other promising compounds in our pipeline”.