A Durham drug company developing new treatments for pain and epilepsy has received a $3 million payment from larger partner Pfizer.
Icagen researchers started a clinical trial to test several compounds as pain medicines, triggering the first milestone payment from Pfizer. Icagen announced in 2007 that it would collaborate with Pfizer on new drugs, a partnership that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars if an experimental drug is successful.
"It could get very large if things go well," said chief financial officer Richard Katz.
The new trial on healthy volunteers will test compounds designed to block a so-called sodium channel in the body's cells, with a goal of reducing the ability to feel pain.
The payment also gives Icagen a bit more of a cash cushion. Officials have been exploring ways of raising additional financing on Wall Street or through partnerships.
At the end of March, Icagen had about $14 million in cash. The company, which cut costs and jobs last year, continues to spend about $3 million a quarter. Icagen now employs about 50 people.
Icagen's shares, which began trading publicly in 2005, have fallen sharply as investors worry about the company's financial health and whether it will be able to develop a successful drug.
Icagen officials have appealed a Nasdaq decision to delist its shares. In June, shareholders approved Icagen's planned one-for-eight reverse stock split. Such a move would reduce the number of outstanding shares and increase the per-share price to help meet the Nasdaq's listing requirements.
Officials are waiting to hear from the Nasdaq before moving ahead with the split, Katz said.
Icagen shares fell 5 cents to 35 cents today.