In a deal potentially worth $1.6 billion, Novartis is set to acquire IFM Therapeutics' IFM Tre unit.

The Swiss company will pay $310 million in upfront payments in order to gain access to IFM Tre's portfolio of NLPR3 antagonists, which consists of one clinical and two pre-clinical programs.

These trials include IFM-2427, a first-in-class, clinical stage systemic antagonist for an array of chronic inflammatory disorders including atherosclerosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH); a pre-clinical stage gut-directed molecule for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease; and a pre-clinical stage central nervous system (CNS)-penetrant molecule.

"Since founding IFM in 2015, our team has worked tirelessly to build a portfolio of next-generation small molecule medicines that exploit the innate immune system as a new therapeutic target," said Gary D. Glick, chief executive officer and co-founder of IFM Therapeutics.

"Today's announcement marks a significant milestone in the development of next-generation therapies for serious inflammatory conditions. Based on substantial pre-clinical and translational data, we believe NLRP3 inhibition represents a novel approach to preventing the overactive inflammation that drives the onset and progression of numerous metabolic, fibrotic, autoimmune and neurological diseases.

“With Novartis we have identified a partner that shares our conviction in the potential of this approach, and who has deep expertise bringing inflammatory and autoimmune disease therapeutics to market. We look forward to collaborating with Novartis, while continuing to develop programs that target other components of the innate immune system through IFM Due and the broader IFM enterprise."

IFM Tre's programs target the innate immune system by suppressing only the inflammation mediated by the NLRP3 pathway, leaving other immune pathways unsuppressed and free to produce inflammatory responses to confront harmful pathogens.