• Nimbus may get as much as $800 million in additional payments
  • Drug is in development for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis

Gilead Sciences Inc. will pay $400 million to buy a drug from closely held Nimbus Therapeutics LLC as the biotechnology giant expands its development portfolio of treatments for the fatty liver disease known as NASH.

Nimbus will get $400 million up front and as much as $800 million in potential milestones for the acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) inhibitor called NDI-010976. The drug is being developed for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, which affects 2 to 5 percent of American and is caused by fat buildup in the liver, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can eventually lead to scarring and damage of the organ. Analysts have estimated that the market for NASH drugs could eventually be worth $35 billion.

“These molecules will complement and further strengthen Gilead’s pipeline and capabilities to advance a broad clinical program in NASH,” Norbert Bischofberger, Gilead’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement announcing the deal. Gilead will also acquire other similar drugs from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Nimbus.

After its success with two blockbuster hepatitis C treatments, Gilead is sitting on $26.2 billion in cash and equivalents and is looking to diversify its portfolio. Gilead’s website lists three compounds in development for NASH, including two in mid-stage trials.

NDI-010976 gained a fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February, which can help speed submission and approval. Results from an early-stage trial of the drug, which the company is also looking to use to treat liver cancer, will be presented next month, according to the statement.

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