Allergan yesterday made its second move toward anchoring its gastroenterology R&D portfolio on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) treatments by snapping up Akarna Therapeutics for $50 million upfront.

Under the deal, made public yesterday, Allergan also agreed to payments tied to achieving clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones related to Akarna’s lead development compound AKN-083, a preclinical non–bile acid farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonist for treatment of NASH.

AKN-083 is in IND-enabling toxicology and safety pharmacology studies, having shown “robust” in vivo proof of concept in animal models of steatosis and fibrosis, according to Akarna’s website. First-in-human studies are planned for early 2017.

“We look forward to advancing this unique compound into later stages of development, and to advancing our overall portfolio of NASH programs, as we focus on bringing forward effective treatments for this critical disease area,” Allergan CEO and President Brent Saunders said in a statement.

In preclinical studies, AKN-083 “has shown high affinity, potency, and selectivity with a better tolerability profile. These characteristics make AKN-083 a great addition to our portfolio of assets for the treatment of NASH,” added David Nicholson, Allergan’s chief R&D officer.

Allergan said AKN-083 is “highly complementary” to the Phase III-ready immunomodulatory Cenicriviroc (CVC) and includes the Phase I dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor Evogliptin. Both compounds are being developed by Tobira Therapeutics, which Allergan said yesterday it plans to acquire for up to $1.695 billion.

In addition to AKN-083, Akarna’s portfolio includes additional development-stage FXR compounds, Allergan said.

Privately held Akarna specializes in developing novel small-molecule therapeutics against inflammatory and fibrotic diseases,

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