US biotechnology firm Exelixis has signed a license agreement potentially worth up to $157.5 million dollars with Wyeth for a series of compounds with potential in the treatment of metabolic diseases.

The collaboration involves compounds targeting the farnesoid X receptor, or FXR, a nuclear hormone receptor implicated in a variety of metabolic and liver disorders, said Exelixis in a statement.

FXR acts as a receptor for bile acids, and drugs that act on it can be used to regulate triglyceride, cholesterol and bile acid metabolism, according to the company. Studies in animal models of dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis have shown that Exelixis’ compounds can improve triglyceride and lipid profiles, and are also effective in blocking the progression of liver disorders, such as gallstones.

The deal includes a $10 million upfront payment and up to an additional $147.5 million in development and commercialisation milestone payments, as well as royalties on the sale of any products that reach the market.

Wyeth will be responsible for all future preclinical and clinical development, regulatory activities, manufacturing and commercialisation of the compounds.

Other companies developing FXR-modulating drugs include ILEX Oncology (now part of Genzyme), whose apomine drug candidate is already in clinical trials for cancer applications and osteoporosis, and German biotech Phenex Pharmaceuticals which has compounds in preclinical development.