In a forward-looking move that could provide it with new drugs to fight a variety of autoimmune disorders, healthcare giant Roche (RHHBY 0.49%) is acquiring Ireland-based Inflazome for 380 million euros, about $451 million at the current exchange rate.

The acquisition will bring with it Inflazome's oral NLRP3 program, including two small-molecule inflammasome inhibitors in early-stage clinical trials. The NLRP3 gene provides the body with instructions to make cryopyrin, a protein that spots molecular danger signals and prompts an immune system reaction to infections and tissue damage.

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Over-activation of the immune system can contribute to various disorders, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, as well as asthma, arthritis, and chronic kidney disease. Phase 1 clinical trials for two Inflazome drugs, inzomelid and somalix, are complete, and phase 2 studies are set to begin this year. 

Initially, inzomelid is being evaluated in three rare disorders caused by NLRP3 mutations: familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome, Muckle-Wells syndrome, and neonatal-onset multisystem inflammatory disease. However, because it can pass the blood-brain barrier, Roche may evaluate it in larger neurological indications, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Somalix is designed to avoid interacting with the central nervous system, so it's being evaluated in non-neurological indications such as gout, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis.

If Inflazome's pipeline succeeds, then its shareholders will be eligible to receive milestone payments over and above the 380 million euro purchase price.