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Icagen shares soar on possible takeover by Pfizer

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Icagen shares surged today, as investors bet that the Durham company will be bought for a premium by larger partner Pfizer.

Late Friday, Pfizer disclosed that it's in discussions about a "strategic transaction" with Icagen. Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, first formed a partnership with Icagen in 2007 to develop new pain medicines.

Icagen could be worth $50 million to $100 million in a takeover, McNicoll, Lewis & Vlak analyst Christopher James told Bloomberg News. That would make Icagen's shares worth up to $13 each.

In midday trading, Icagen's stock rose $3.09 to $5.49. That's the highest level in more than a year.

Pfizer already owns more than 1 million Icagen shares, making it the company's largest investor.

Icagen officials, in a prepared statement late Friday, confirmed the talks with Pfizer, but said they wouldn't have any further comment until there is a "definitive agreement or the current discussions have terminated."

Chief financial officer Richard Katz declined further comment this morning.

Icagen shares began trading publicly in 2005 at the equivalent of $64 each.  The company has struggled financially as it ran into problems developing a successful new medicine.

Founded in 1992, Icagen is one of several drug-development companies based on university research that dot the Triangle. Icagen now employs about 40 people.

In addition to research on pain drugs Icagen is conducting under its Pfizer partnership, the company also is developing medicine to treat epilepsy.

Icagen and Pfizer recently started another early-stage study of an experimental pain treatment to determine if it's safe and effective on patients. The treatment is designed to inhibit pain by blocking so-called sodium channels in the body.

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About the blogger

Assistant Business Editor Alan M. Wolf joined the N&O in 1999 covering the business of health care. He became an editor in 2001, and helps oversee the paper's daily business coverage and Sunday Work&Money section. He lives in Clayton with his wife and two children. Reach him at 919-829-4572 or e-mail him.