Novartis has linked up with Ensemble Therapeutics to develop the latter's in-house experimental drug candidates that block the inflammatory protein interleukin-17, a target for a number of autoimmune diseases.

The agreement, the financial details for which have not been disclosed, also includes a new programme to discover novel small molecule treatments against undisclosed targets specified by Novartis using Ensemble’s drug discovery platforms. The US firm is banking an undisclosed
upfront fee and is also eligible to receive development and sales milestone payments, plus tiered royalties. The Swiss major will also provide research funding.

Ensemble chief executive Michael Taylor, said that Novartis has recognised the strength of his firm's orally-bioavailable candidates "against this difficult-to-drug protein:protein interaction target". He added that “the discovery component of our alliance reinforces the mutual commitment to advance candidates from Ensemble’s macrocycle-based chemistry".

Ensemble has already entered into "high-value partnerships" with the likes of Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer. Novartis is developing secukinumab, which targets IL-17 and has impressed in late-stage trials for psoriasis.