By Brady Huggett

Icagen Inc. channeled in nearly $23 million in 2001's first quarter through private placements to expand its drug discovery pipeline and advance its development programs.

New investors included the China Development Industrial Bank, of Taiwan, and Quintiles Transnational Corp., of Research Triangle Park, N.C. Also participating were Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill.; New Medical Technologies, of Basel, Switzerland; Alta Partners, of San Francisco; and Venrock Associates, of New York.

The approximate $22.8 million placement tops the $19 million it raised in December 1999 as the largest funding in the company's eight-year history. The current funding puts Icagen, of Research Triangle Park, N.C., comfortably over the $50 million mark for total funds raised. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 1, 1999.)

"It gives us the sustaining power to develop our programs internally without having to worry about what the market is doing," said Kay Wagoner, CEO and president of Icagen. "With the cash we already have, we have several years of operations without a worry."

The financing in late 1999 was meant to fuel the move of three products into the clinic in 2000 and to build up its pipeline. Icagen now has 10 active drug discovery programs, covering a range of indications, and five programs in clinical trials or advanced preclinical studies. Its work in sickle cell anemia is furthest along, in Phase I studies.

Icagen focuses on ion channel drug discovery and development. Its technical capabilities allow it to apply its ion channel knowledge to genomics, high-throughput screening, electrophysiology, pharmacology, chemistry and preclinical and clinical development. It has more than 75 patents and patent applications covering ion channel genes, screens and compounds.

Two of the company's 10 programs are partnered. Its atrial fibrillation program is partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, in a $75 million deal signed in 1997. It also is linked with Abbott Laboratories on urological disorders and central nervous system diseases. The potential $12 million Abbott deal originally was signed in December 1997, but expanded this month for another two years to include the development of small-molecule drugs that target ion channels for the treatment of urological disorders such as incontinence, benign prostatic hypertrophy and sexual dysfunction. The expansion included additional research funding for new therapeutic indications in urology. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 1, 1997, and Dec. 9, 1997.) n

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