Gilead Sciences has signed a licensing and collaboration agreement, potentially worth $785m, with South Korea-based Yuhan to develop new therapeutic candidates for the treatment of advanced fibrosis due to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
As per the agreement, US-based Gilead will buy worldwide rights, with the exception of South Korea, to develop and commercialize novel small molecules against two undisclosed targets.
In South Korea, Yuhan will hold on to certain commercialization rights of the potential therapeutic candidates.
The two companies will jointly undertake preclinical research, while the US pharma firm will be responsible for global clinical development.
Gilead chief scientific officer and research and development head John McHutchison said: “This collaboration builds on our long-term partnership with Yuhan, with a new focus on the investigation of novel approaches to treat patients with advanced fibrosis due to NASH that complement our ongoing research programs.
“We look forward to working with the Yuhan team to advance our work in this area where there is a significant unmet need for patients.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the South Korean firm will be given an upfront payment of $15m. It will also be entitled to be paid an additional amount of up to $770m in potential milestone payments based on achievement of certain development and commercial milestones, along with royalties on future net sales.
Yuhan president and CEO Jung Hee Lee said: “I am very pleased by this collaboration, which significantly expands and deepens our longstanding, trusted partnership with Gilead.
“We are confident that Gilead’s expertise in liver disease will accelerate the development of our novel agents. As a company, we are committed to investigating new therapeutics to improve the lives of patients with NASH.”
Last month, the US firm entered into a collaboration with Scholar Rock to discover and develop highly specific inhibitors of transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) activation for the treatment of fibrotic diseases.
Under the agreement, Gilead will gain exclusive options to license global rights to product candidates resulting from three Scholar Rock TGFβ programs.
Included in these are inhibitors that target triggering of latent TGFβ1 with high affinity and specificity, inhibitors that preferentially target activation of latent TGFβ1 localized to extracellular matrix, and a third TGFβ discovery program.