A success in the collaboration between Karo Bio and Pfizer to develop novel small molecule RORgamma modulators for the treatment of autoimmune diseases has resulted in the first milestone payment to Karo.

Under the deal, which began in December 2011, Pfizer agreed to provide full funding for the research costs and obtained the exclusive right to market any products that may be developed. For its efforts, Karo was promised up to $217 million in upfront and milestone payments in addition to potential royalty fees. A little more than two months ago, the original agreement was extended to the end of 2014.

According to Karo, the nuclear hormone receptor RORgamma is an attractive target for the treatment of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis. RORgamma directly controls the production and secretion of the cytokine IL-17, a major contributor to inflammation. The receptor’s key role in driving disease pathology has been implicated in clinical trials using monoclonal antibodies that neutralize IL-17 activity. The agreement with Pfizer was entered into after Karo Bio discovered novel, potent, and specific RORgamma modulators.

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