Icagen, a Triangle-based drug firm that had pursued cures for such diseases as sickle cell anemia and epilepsy, is relaunching as a services company after the assets of the firm that were sold to Pfizer in 2011 are acquired by XRpro Sciences.

Pfizer bought Icagen for some $56 million.

XRpro is paying Pfizer $500,000 up front for the Icagen name, technology and employees plus “earn outs” for as much as $10.5 million.

XRpro says it is relaunching the firm with the Icagen name and trademark. Among the staff are some Icagen employees that joined Pfizer as well as some Pfizer scientists that had been focused on similar research in so-called “ion channels.”

Icagen and XRpro technology will be used jointly in the new company, which will operate in RTP and out of XRpro Sciences’ headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Veteran pharmaceutical executive Richie Cunningham will serve as CEO of Icagen. He also leads XRpro.

“Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are looking for efficiency improvements and expertise in the drug development process and are increasingly relying on outsource providers,” Cunningham said in a statement.

“Icagen is being re-launched to enable such companies to advance their ion channel and transporter drug discovery by bringing together the outstanding expertise of Icagen scientists with an unmatched portfolio of ion channel cell lines and assay technologies.”

“The Pfizer team transitioning to the new Icagen has more than two decades of leadership in the ion channel field and a long track record of success in moving compounds from discovery into clinical development across a variety of therapeutic areas, both alone and in partnership with leading pharmaceutical developers including Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson,” he added.

“This expertise, combined with a continually expanding collection of ion channel tools and technologies and the enabling capabilities of XRpro’s high throughput technology, positions us to provide services in the ion channel and transporter research fields that are second to none.”

According to FiercePharma, Pfizer did develop one pain reliever through the Icagen platform that remains in clinical trial.