Bristol-Myers Squibb is snapping up Padlock Therapeutics, a US biotech working on the creation of new medicines targeting destructive autoimmune diseases.

The move gives the drugs giant access to Padlock’s Protein/Peptidyl Arginine Deiminase (PAD) inhibitor discovery programme, which is focused on the development of potentially transformational treatment approaches for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but may also have utility in treating systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases.

PADs are enzymes that produce autoantigens which play an active role in the development and progression of RA and other autoimmune diseases. Their inhibition offers the potential to prevent progression of such conditions early in their evolution, the firms noted, which could lead “a paradigm shift in treatment by preventing disease development and resulting joint destruction”. 

“Targeting PAD enzymes has the potential to be one of the most innovative mechanisms for treating autoimmunity which both strengthens and accelerates our immunoscience pipeline,” said Francis Cuss, BMS’ chief scientific officer, explaining the firm’s interest in the deal. “By pursuing a treatment approach which may address disease progression earlier, we hope to transform the lives of patients with RA and other autoimmune diseases.”

The deal includes upfront and near term contingent milestone payments of up to $225 million and additional contingent consideration of up to $375 million upon the achievement by BMS of certain development and regulatory events. 

Further terms were not disclosed, but the firms said they expect the transaction to close during the second quarter of 2016.