XRpro Sciences said today it acquired from Pfizer assets related to the ion channel biology platform that the pharma giant inherited by acquiring Icagen in 2011, as well as all of Pfizer's rights to the Icagen name and trademark.

XRpro agreed to pay Pfizer up to $11 million—consisting of $500,000 upfront and up to $10.5 million in milestones, according to a regulatory filing.

Pfizer and Icagen have collaborated on small molecule treatments for pain and related disorders since 2007. Four years later, Pfizer acquired Icagen in a deal that would total $56 million.

XRpro said it will re-launch the Icagen brand and provide services for ion channel and transporter drug discovery, by combining its label-free X-ray fluorescence technology with Icagen's expertise and portfolio of assays and cell lines.

“Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are looking for efficiency improvements and expertise in the drug development process and are increasingly relying on outsource providers. Icagen is being re-launched to enable such companies to advance their ion channel and transporter drug discovery,” Richie Cunningham, CEO of the new Icagen, said in a statement.

Icagen's offerings comprise cell lines and technologies for ion channel and transporter research, capped by the label-free XRpro® platform. XRpro’s technology, based on X-ray fluorescence, is designed to enable high throughput assessment of ion channels and transporters, including challenging systems with high therapeutic interest.

The new Icagen will continue to operate out of its existing facility in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, in addition to the current XRpro Sciences site in Cambridge, MA.

Pfizer scientists associated with the ion channel biology platform will be absorbed by the new Icagen, XRpro said. Cunningham cited the success of the Pfizer scientists in advancing compounds from discovery into clinical development across a variety of therapeutic areas, both alone and with such pharma giants as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson.

Michael Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D., Pfizer’s svp of biotherapeutics R&D, stated that his company will collaborate with the new Icagen: “We look forward to working with the new Icagen to discover new drug candidates targeting ion channels and transporters that impact major neurological and cardiovascular diseases.”

Douglas Krafte, Ph.D., the new Icagen’s CSO, said the company's research efforts to date had covered multiple ion channel classes, as well as therapeutic indications that include cardiac arrhythmias, sickle cell anemia, asthma, epilepsy, and pain.

“Working since 2011 as part of Pfizer has enabled us to significantly grow our technological resources and gain unique insights into large company perspectives about drug R&D that will serve our clients well as we go forward,” Dr. Krafte said, adding: “We look forward to once again operating as an independent company and collaborating with pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry researchers on their discovery and preclinical development problems, without limitations on the therapeutic areas or ion channels of interest.”

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