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Biogen Idec gets exclusive access to Isis' neurology R&D

Fourth deal in two years with antisense specialist
Biogen Idec building 

Biogen Idec has expanded its ongoing R&D collaboration with antisense specialist Isis with another project targeting neurological diseases.

Isis will get $100m upfront in the new six-year deal, which is the fourth to be signed by the two companies in the last two years, along with milestone payments of up to $220m for antisense drugs developed under the collaboration plus royalties on any eventual sales.

In early 2012, Biogen Idec tapped into Isis' antisense technology to try to develop a new drug called ISIS-SMN Rx to treat spinal muscular atrophy. That was followed by a deal to find dystrophia myotonica-protein kinase (DMPK) inhibitors to treat the rare disease myotonic dystrophy type 1, with the first clinical candidate  - ISIS DMPK Rx - now ready to start clinical trials.

Before the end of the year Biogen Idec was knocking on Isis' door again with another project looking for drug candidates for three other undisclosed neurological targets, with the first development candidate due to emerge early next year.

All told, upfront payments for these programmes came in at around $70m, and Isis chief executive Stanley Crooke said yesterday that the total value of all four programmes could be as much as $4bn.

The latest alliance will try to find new drug targets for undisclosed neurodegenerative diseases, as well as antisense, small-molecule or antibody drug candidates, and provides Biogen Idec exclusive access to Isis' neurological disease programme for the duration of the deal. It also differs from the earlier projects in that it is much more weighted towards target discovery, said Crooke.

"Antisense is a validated technology that we believe will help build our pipeline of antisense, small molecule and biologics programs, strengthening our leadership in neurology," commented Biogen Idec's R&D head Douglas Williams.

Antisense therapy has been promising to provide a broadly-applicable new approach to drug therapy since the early 1990s, by providing a means to switch genes involved in a disease on or off. Delivery and stability hurdles held back the field for years, but recently things have started to look up.

In January Isis and partner Sanofi won approval in the US for Kynamro (mipomersen) to treat the rare cardiovascular disease homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia, the first antisense drug to reach market since Isis' Vitravene (fomivirsen) for cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV) in 1998. This drug was taken off the market in 2004 due to dwindling sales.

Meanwhile, Isis has also just reported encouraging data from a phase II trial ISIS-APOCIII Rx for elevated blood triglycerides, which will be the first project the firm will take forward into phase III without a commercial partner.

The company suffered a setback last month, however, when it dropped rheumatoid arthritis treatment ISIS-CRP Rx after disappointing results in a phase II trial, while Kynamro was turned down by the European Medicines Agency at the end of last year on safety concerns.


 

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th September 2013

From: Research

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