(Reuters) – Gilead Sciences Inc said on Tuesday it will partner with privately held insitro to develop therapies for a fatty liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), as the drugmaker tries to overcome its recent setback in developing NASH treatments.

Insitro will receive an upfront payment of $15 million with additional near-term payments up to $35 million based on operational milestones, the companies said in a statement.

The firm – launched last year with investments from Alphabet Inc’s Verily and GV among others – uses machine learning to help discover and develop drug candidates.

The partnership comes two months after Gilead’s experimental NASH drug selonsertib failed to meet its main goal in a late-stage study.

NASH is a chronic liver disease characterized by excess fat, inflammation and cell damage in liver that can cause fibrosis or scarring of the organ, ultimately leading to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Drugmakers are in pursuit of a NASH treatment, a lucrative market that some project could reach $20 billion to $35 billion as more people are affected by the disease, fueled by obesity and diabetes.

Gilead also signed a deal with Novo Nordisk last Friday for another potential NASH treatment, combining Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide and Gilead’s cilofexor and firsocostat.


Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli


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