Pfizer and Bayer say that they have entered into a licensing deal that grants the former exclusive worldwide rights to Bayer's DGAT-1 (diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1) inhibitors, a new class of drug for type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The lead compound in this drug class, BAY 74-4113, is being assessed in a Phase I trial. DGAT is a key enzyme involved in the synthesis of triglycerides, one of the main forms of storage for excess calories in fat. Animal studies have shown that mice deficient in this enzyme are resistant to diet induced obesity and have increased insulin sensitivity.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bayer will receive an upfront fee, payments associated with the achievement of developmental milestones and royalties based on the sale of any products which emerge. The deal, which is still subject to the findings of an antitrust review, is expected to close in the second half of the year.

Commenting on the deal, Martin Mackay, Pfizer's senior vice president of worldwide research and technology, said that both obesity and diabetes are increasing to near epidemic levels around the world, indicating that there is a real need for the development of new treatments.

The metabolic syndrome market - including diabetes and obesity - looks set to nearly double over the next few years, leaping from $9.5 billion in 2004 to just shy of $18 billion in 2014, according to a report by market research analyst Decision Resources.

Gunnar Riemann, head of Bayer HealthCare's Pharmaceuticals division, said that the Pfizer deal validates the quality and expertise of its research program. He added that the outlicensing of the drug was in line with the firm's focus on the development of specialty pharmaceuticals.