Icagen, which plans to go public, received a major boost on Tuesday when it announced a partnership with a Johnson & Johnson company to take a potential new drug to market.

McNeill Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals agreed to make an undisclosed up-front payment to Icagen as part of the deal.

Milestone payments could follow as the drug advances, and Icagen has options to develop and commercialize it in non-U.S. markets other than Canada. Some 100,000 people in the US have sickle cell disease.

Focus of the partnership is ICA-17043, which could be a treatment for sickle cell disease. It recently completed a Phase II trial. The drug has received both fast track and orphan drug designation from the FDA, which mean additional incentives and help in getting a drug to market if successful in trials.

“We believe that McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, with its development expertise and extensive sales and marketing infrastructure, is an ideal partner as we seek to develop and commercialize ICA-17043 for the treatment of patients with sickle cell disease,” said Kay Wagoner, president and CEO of Icagen, in a statement. “This collaboration will provide us with an opportunity to work together with an established partner on ICA-17043.”

In the most recent tests, Icagen said 90 patients reported positive results in treatment of hemolytic anemia when using the drug. Icagen said the drug was also well tolerated.

Icagen filed plans to go public in April with a target of $86.25 million and a proposed trading symbol of ICGN.

The company has raised $70 million in venture financing.

Icagen also has an epilepsy drug, a treatment for atrial fibrillation, and possible treatments for dementia under development.
Bristol-Myers Squibb is working with Icagen on the atrial fibrillation compound.

Icagen: www.icagen.com