Pfizer has linked up with US firm GlycoMimetics to get access to the latter's mid-stage treatment for a complication of sickle cell disease.

Specifically, the drugs giant has bagged exclusive worldwide licensing rights to GMI-1070, a pan-selectin antagonist currently in Phase II for the treatment of vaso-occlusive crisis associated with sickle cell disease. Vaso-occlusive crisis, which can last five to six days, results in over 75,000 hospitalisations each year in the USA and can cause pain and tissue damage.

The firms noted that this can lead to "multiple organ damage, a requirement for life-long narcotic pain medications, and eventually to significantly shorter life spans". While the genetic and molecular cause of sickle cell disease has been known for more than 50 years, "therapy for painful crises has not significantly advanced", they added, pointing out that GMI-1070 has received orphan drug and fast-track status from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Cashwise, GlycoMimetics could pocket $340 million, including an upfront payment as well as development, regulatory and commercial milestones, plus royalties. The privately-held firm will remain responsible for completion of the ongoing Phase II trial "under Pfizer’s oversight" and the latter will then take over.

GMI-1070 is also being evaluated in preclinical studies for the treatment of other diseases, including haematologic malignancies.