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The Alnitak program is based on an inhibitor of TAK1, which is a central mediator, or a kind of switch, for various inflammatory signals and for activation of several inflammatory mediators (cytokines).

The Alnitak program began in the fall of 2019 and on February 15, 2023, Aqilion signed an exclusive license agreement and strategic research collaboration with Merck to discover, develop and commercialize small molecule inhibitors of TAK1.

In this collaboration, Aqilion will be responsible for the design and synthesis of novel small molecule TAK1 inhibitors, while Merck will lead  he work in preclinical pharmacology and biology.

Merck paid an upfront cash payment of EUR 10 million to Aqilion. Aqilion is also entitled to receive milestone payments for development and commercialization that together exceed EUR 950 million, as well as royalties on global net sales.