(Adds details, comment from Novartis)
ZURICH, April 1 (Reuters) - Novartis on Monday said it had agreed to pay $310 million upfront, with the possibility for more later, for some research assets of Boston-based inflammation specialist IFM Therapeutics as the Swiss drugmaker expands its immunology pipeline.
The deal, for the IFM subsidiary IFM Tre, could eventually reach nearly $1.6 billion, IFM said, should its portfolio meet certain milestones. IFM Tre has one molecule, IFM-2427, in an early Phase 1 trial, and a pair of less-developed assets.
IFM, whose research head Martin Seidel spent more than a decade at Novartis before assuming R&D duties at IFM in 2017, focuses on immune system modulation. In buying three potential drugs, Novartis is hoping for agents to fight chronic inflammatory disorders like gout, atherosclerosis and fatty liver disease (NASH), as well as inflammatory bowel disease.
"These programs complement the existing Novartis pipeline of anti-inflammatory medicines," said Novartis, adding studies have shown IFM Tre's molecules can selectively suppress disease-causing inflammation, while allowing the rest of the immune system to continue normal operations.
IFM Therapeutics is part of the portfolio of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Atlas Venture, whose other stakes include Intellia Therapeutics that is also working with Novartis. The IFM Tre deal is seen closing before July. (Reporting by John Miller, editing by John Revill)