AbbVie signed a $40 million collaboration with HotSpot Therapeutics for its discovery-stage IRF5 program, which treats autoimmune diseases, Tuesday morning. 

The IRF5 is a transcription factor that helps regulate certain types of immune responses. Utilizing its Smart Allostery platform, HotSpot said it has discovered what it thinks is the “first and only disclosed small molecule IRF5 inhibitor” that targets a previously unknown allosteric pocket on the protein that’s critical for endogenous regulation. 

As part of the deal, AbbVie will pay HotSpot $40 million upfront in cash with the potential for up to $295 million in option fees as well as further milestones and royalty payments.

If AbbVie exercises its option to license, the company will conduct all future clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization activities for the IRF5 inhibitor program.

“This collaboration with HotSpot has the potential to deliver an entirely new target class of modulators to patients with serious autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, and will help to further strengthen our robust immunology pipeline,” Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., VP and global head of discovery research at AbbVie, said in a statement. “HotSpot’s drug discovery platform has been able to identify molecules that bind to IRF5 in a predictable, reproducible manner potentially enabling effective drugging of what has been considered an undruggable target.”

Additionally, HotSpot would have a one-time option to share in the global research and development costs in exchange for increased royalty payments. 

Immunology continues to be a reliable revenue generator for AbbVie, leaving no surprise that the company seeks to build on it going forward. 

According to its latest earnings report, AbbVie’s immunology portfolio saw revenues rise by nearly 15% during Q3. AbbVie CEO Richard A. Gonzalez said in a statement accompanying the release that the pharma company continues to “see strong momentum” from its key immunology assets, Skyrizi and Rinvoq.

The HotSpot collaboration is just the latest immunology play for AbbVie.

In October, AbbVie acquired DJS Antibodies for $255 million in order to expand its immunology portfolio. Through the deal, AbbVie adds DJS-002, DJS’ lead product candidate and a potential first-in-class antibody directed to lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1.