Isis Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ISIS) has long followed a strategy of spreading its broad drug development program (the company lists 21 drugs in clinical trials) among a variety of pharmaceutical partners. It’s a strategy that enables Isis to generate a diverse stream of revenue from license fees, milestone payments, royalties, profit-sharing, and other payments, while optimizing its focus and efficiency in drug development.
This week the Carlsbad, CA, biopharmaceutical added a few more partnership deals to its portfolio, landing $31 million in nearly immediate payments from AstraZeneca (along with unspecified milestone payments, licensing fees, and royalties in the future) and a three-drug deal with Biogen Idec that includes a $30 million upfront payment and potential future payments totaling $600 million.
In the deal with Weston, MA-based Biogen Idec, which was unveiled Monday, Isis and Biogen agreed to discover and develop antisense drugs against three undisclosed targets for neurological or neuromuscular disorders. The two already are collaborating under previous deals to jointly develop antisense drugs to treat spinal muscular atrophy and myotonic dystrophy type 1.
Isis disclosed its newest collaboration yesterday. The Carlsbad biotech has partnered with London-based AstraZeneca, to discover and develop antisense drugs against five cancer targets, including a drug in early clinical trial that Isis has been evaluating for advanced lymphomas.
Isis specializes in antisense therapies, developing drugs that target the proteins produced by mutated genes that are responsible in certain types of disease. The idea is to synthesize a strand of nucleic acid that binds to the gene’s messenger RNA (mRNA), which blocks that gene’s protein production.
The synthesized nucleic acid is termed an “antisense” oligonucleotide because its base sequence is exactly complementary—and binds—to the “sense” sequence of the gene’s mRNA. In effect, the antisense technology, like the refrain of a 1984 song from the Talking Heads, tells the gene to “Stop making sense, stop making sense.”