Swiss pharma major Novartis has acquired IFM Due from biopharmaceutical company IFM Therapeutics in a deal worth up to $835m.

Novartis exercised a previously granted option to buy all the outstanding capital stock of IFM Due.

Launched in 2019, IFM Due is focused on the development of small molecules to inhibit the cyclic GMP-AMP Synthase, Stimulator of Interferon Genes (cGAS-STING) pathway.

In September 2019, the company signed an option and collaboration agreement with Novartis.

Under the agreement, Novartis made fixed payments to fully fund IFM Due’s research and development expenses for the cGAS-STING programme in exchange for the acquisition option.

According to the terms of the option, IFM Therapeutics was given $90m in upfront payment and will be eligible to receive up to $745m in milestone payments.

Novartis immunology research global head Richard Siegel said: “The acquisition of IFM Due represents the culmination of a highly productive, four-year preclinical collaboration between Novartis and IFM to develop novel small-molecule STING inhibitors with the potential to treat a spectrum of inflammatory diseases.

“We are excited to advance IFM Due’s STING program and leverage our deep expertise in inflammation science to bring forward transformative medicines that address major unmet patient needs.”

Through the acquisition, Novartis will have complete rights to IFM Due’s portfolio of STING antagonists, which are said to have the potential to treat a range of serious inflammation-driven diseases.

The Swiss pharmaceutical firm will develop a variety of immunotherapies that inhibit the cGAS/STING pathway to target serious inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

IFM Therapeutics CEO H. Martin Seidel said: “We have been steadfast in our belief that selectively targeting STING to block the cGAS-STING pathway has the potential to deliver a powerful therapeutic option for patients with serious chronic illnesses.

“Novartis has been an outstanding collaborator, and the program couldn’t be in better hands.

“Today, as IFM Therapeutics marks the third major acquisition by a global pharmaceutical company, we cannot be more proud of our team’s accomplishments and look forward to seeing our vision of precisely targeting the innate immune system to address a variety of serious inflammation-driven diseases become a reality for patients in need.”