US-based Gilead Sciences has entered into an agreement with German Phenex Pharmaceuticals to acquire its Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) programme, including small molecule FXR agonists to treat liver diseases comprising nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
As part of the deal, Phenex will receive $470m from Gilead, which will include an upfront payment and additional payments based upon achievement of certain development milestones.
Phenex Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr Claus Kremoser said: "This agreement represents a significant milestone for our company and for the field of liver disease research.
"After 15 years of research, FXR is now one of the few clinically validated targets for NASH and we are delighted that Gilead will be continuing the research necessary to more fully realise its potential for advanced liver disease."
NASH is a chronic liver disease, which is characterised by inflammation and excessive fat accumulation in the liver and may lead to progressive fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver failure.
According to Gilead, there are currently no approved therapies for the treatment of NASH.
FXR is a nuclear hormone receptor, which regulates bile acid, lipid and glucose homeostasis, and helps reduce liver steatosis and inflammation, as well as liver fibrosis.
Gilead Sciences research and development executive vice-president Norbert Bischofberger said: "The acquisition of Phenex's FXR programme represents an important opportunity to accelerate Gilead's efforts to develop new treatment options that address fibrotic liver diseases."