Pfizer inks $210M orphan drug discovery pact with Zacharon

A little more than two years since it announced a $3.5 million Series A round, San Diego's Zacharon Pharmaceuticals has inked a $210 million discovery deal with Pfizer ($PFE) that will target new drugs for rare diseases. Underscoring Big Pharma's growing interest in orphan diseases, Pfizer says that Zacharon will help it hunt for new therapies to treat lysosomal storage disorders.

The biotech didn't reveal the upfront portion of the deal, but discovery pacts are typically largely back-ended. Zacharon added that Pfizer will also provide some R&D funding as part of the collaboration.

Zacharon has attracted some modest attention over the years for an unusual drug discovery strategy focused on glycans, large molecules that play a role in cellular signaling. Using a high throughput screening assay, it's been hunting down small molecules that can inhibit glycans, which have proved notoriously difficult to influence. It presented preclinical cancer data at the National Cancer Institute Investor Forum last November and has garnered more than $2 million in grants from the NIH. Avalon has been the biotech's sole venture backer.

"Part of Pfizer's Orphan & Genetic Diseases Unit's strategic focus relies on collaborations with companies like Zacharon that have promising technologies to help develop treatments for rare diseases," Ed Mascioli, head of Pfizer's Orphan & Genetic Diseases Unit, said in a statement. "Zacharon is an ideal partner, and we look forward to working with them to develop treatments for lysosomal storage diseases."

- here's the Zacharon release