Pfizer has teamed up with Icagen to develop and commercialise new treatments for pain in a deal that could net the small US biopharmaceutical firm up to $400 million.

The companies are setting up a joint research committee to look at compounds which target three sodium ion channels to treat pain and related disorders. Under the terms of the collaboration, which will be entirely funded by Pfizer, Icagen will receive $38 million over the first two years of the pact, including $12 million upfront as a licensing fee and up to $15 million though an equity commitment.

Additionally Icagen could receive $359 million in R&D, regulatory and commercialisation milestones on top of tiered royalties and given the terms of the deal, the latter now expects to finish the third quarter with about $46 million in cash and $20 million in committed funding. This will help advance its R&D programmes across multiple novel ion channel targets, the firm said.

Icagen chief executive Kay Wagoner said that as there are three different ion channel targets involved in the collaboration, “we believe that there is a possibility for at least three unique products to emerge from this joint effort”. The deal sees Pfizer looking to expand its pain franchise, which is headed by the COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) for arthritis and the neuropathic pain medication and epilepsy drug Lyrica (pregabalin), while Icagen gets a strong validation for its expertise in ion channel biology, noted JPMorgan analyst Richard Smith in a note. However he added that “clinical data from the company's early stage pipeline may be needed to attract greater investor interest”.