Rare Daily Staff

Ligand Pharmaceuticals said it is acquiring the core assets of Icagen, a rare disease and neuroscience drug discovery biotech, for $15 million in cash.

The deal includes partnered programs, proprietary ion channel screening and assay platforms, x-ray fluorescence capabilities, custom screening technologies, and novel unpartnered preclinical molecules. Icagen will also be entitled to receive up to an additional $25 million of cash payments based on certain revenue achievements.

The Icagen deal includes its December 2018 collaboration with Roche to develop and commercialize therapies for neurological diseases, with an initial program utilizing Icagen’s proprietary drug discovery platform. As part of their agreement, Roche made a cash upfront payment and provides research funding to Icagen. In addition, Icagen is eligible to receive development and commercial milestone payments of up to $274 million, and royalty payments should a drug be commercialized. Icagen is responsible for all preclinical activities up to lead optimization, with both Icagen and Roche applying resources to identify candidates for entry into IND-enabling studies. Roche will be responsible for the further development and commercialization of the program.

Icagen also has a collaboration with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation focused on cystic fibrosis. Under that partnership, Icagen was awarded up to $11 million to discover therapeutics to treat patients with cystic fibrosis caused by nonsense mutations. The foundation also provides resources and expertise to the integrated, multiyear drug-discovery initiative. Icagen expects to screen more than 2 million compounds as well as leverage its in silico drug discovery platform to interrogate an additional 10 million virtual structures for molecules that suppress nonsense mutations. Through these efforts, Icagen hopes to discover and evolve families of molecules that are suitable for clinical development. Icagen is eligible to receive additional milestones and royalties on sales, should a product be commercialized.

Ligand is also acquiring six Icagen preclinical-stage internal programs targeting diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, pain, Pompe disease, and other disorders.

“Icagen has built deep expertise focused on ion channels and transporters to support target identification and evaluation and has an established track record in ion channel drug discovery from screening to lead optimization,” said John Higgins, CEO of Ligand. “We expect these capabilities will be synergistic across multiple technology platforms at Ligand, particularly with Vernalis and in novel OmniAb antibody discovery targeting ion channels and transporters.”

Ligand’s strategy to generate revenue is to strike deals for companies with expertise in later-stage development, regulatory management, and commercialization. For example, Ligand acquired Vernalis for $43 million in late 2018 after the British biotech received two marketing rejections from U.S. regulators, acquiring eight partnered programs and operations in the United Kingdom.

Icagen has had a long history since its founding in 1992 by P. Kay Wagoner to discover, develop, and commercialize small molecules targeting ion channels. The company went public in 2005, entered into a deal with Pfizer in 2007 focused on pain therapies, and was eventually bought out by Pfizer in 2011. Then in July 2015, XRpro Sciences acquired Icagen from Pfizer and relaunched the company.

 

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