Novartis and Pfizer have announced an agreement that aims to advance the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a form of liver disease.

The clinical development pact will include a study combining Novartis’ Farnesoid X receptor agonist tropifexor with one or more Pfizer compounds for the treatment of NASH, including an acetyl CoA-carboxylase inhibitor (PF-05221304), a diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 2 inhibitor (PF-06865571), and a ketohexokinase inhibitor (PF-06835919).

There are currently no options available to treat NASH, which the firms note presents "a high unmet patient need" as it affects up to 6.5% of the population worldwide and is largely asymptomatic.

As fat builds up in the liver, it can trigger a cycle of chronic inflammation and liver scarring (fibrosis) which, over time, can cause cirrhosis, liver failure and death.

“Liver diseases, including NASH, are multifaceted with various factors that contribute to the progression of the disease. This makes them difficult to treat with a single compound," said Eric Hughes, Global Development Unit head, Immunology, Hepatology and Dermatology.

"We want to collaborate with multiple partners to drive the science and understanding of how to treat non-viral liver diseases. Targeting different pathways in NASH with a broad array of therapies is an essential strategy to bring the best treatments to patients.”

Further details and of the deal were not disclosed.