Novartis has signed a deal worth $400 million or more with US firm Infinity Pharmaceuticals to discover, develop and commercialise drugs for a broad range of cancers.

The US biotechnology firm will receive $30 million in upfront license fees under the terms of the deal. The collaboration focuses on using Infinity’s small-molecule chemistry expertise to identify compounds targeting the Bcl-2 protein family, members of which are thought to be intricately involved in the survival of malignant cells.

Novartis will also make an equity investment in infinity, as well as committed research funding over the first two years of the relationship. Along with success-based milestones, total payments to Infinity could top $400 million, said the firms in a joint statement.

Infinity will receive royalties upon successful commercialization of products developed in the alliance and Novartis will invest in an Infinity public offering, should it occur within two years.

The first drug candidates from the collaboration are scheduled to enter clinical trials in 2007 or 2008.