Boehringer Ingelheim signed a $1.3 billion deal with Ochre Bio to develop treatments for chronic liver diseases (CLD), including metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH) cirrhosis, Monday morning.

The pharma giant will work with the Oxford, England-based RNA biotech to discover and develop regenerative targets for CLDs.

Per terms of the deal, Boehringer Ingelheim will pay Ochre Bio $35 million in upfront and near-term milestone payments, with additional clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments worth more than $1 billion.

The deal represents an expansion of Boehringer Ingelheim’s investments in the CLD treatment space and scales Ochre Bio’s ambitions, specifically around MASH cirrhosis. 

“Our partnership with Ochre Bio is driven by a shared goal to accelerate the development of new treatments for chronic liver diseases including MASH cirrhosis,” Søren Tullin, Ph.D., SVP and global head of cardiometabolic diseases research at Boehringer Ingelheim, said in a statement. “Ochre Bio brings to the table unique and exciting capabilities in liver disease research. We believe their application of advanced genomics and machine learning coupled with human-centric translational models holds the potential to uncover novel regenerative pathways that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by chronic liver disease.”

Ochre Bio chief scientific officer Quin Wills added that the company is eager to work with Boehringer Ingelheim to combat liver failure and promote liver regeneration.

Among liver diseases, both MASH and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) have experienced heightened interest and investment among pharmaceutical companies.

Part of that is due to a sizable market — an estimated 4.5 million Americans are diagnosed with liver disease — that is expected to continue growing, with one estimation that NASH cases will hit 27 million by the end of the decade.

As such, drugmakers have leaned into discovering effective medications and bringing them to market.

Less than two years ago, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals unveiled positive results from a late-stage study of resmetirom, its lead candidate for treating NASH. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the therapy and the company announced plans to raise $600 million in an offering to support the drug, now known by the brand name Rezdiffra.

Additionally, Sagimet Biosciences released data at the start of the year that found its NASH treatment showed statistically significant improvement versus placebo on two primary endpoints in a one-year, Phase 2b trial.

Of note, Boehringer Ingelheim made the deal less than a week after releasing its latest earnings report, which was highlighted by increased pharma sales thanks to Jardiance and Ofev.