Antisense tech makes sense; Isis lands $1.5bn GSK accord

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology

US firm Isis Pharmaceuticals could earn $1.5bn from its new antisense RNA drug development partnership with UK pharmaceutical major GSK.

Under the accord, California-based Isis will use its antisense discovery platform to find and develop six drugs for rare and serious illnesses suggested by the UK firm, including infectious diseases and some conditions causing blindness.

Isis will take the candidates through to Phase II “proof-of-concept” at which point GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has the option to license the compound, which is an ideal arrangement according to CEO Stanley Crooke

This alliance is exactly the type of deal we want to do. We retain control of the discovery and early development of our drugs while working together with a very high-quality partner to maximise the value of the drugs in late-stage development and commercialisation​.”

Patrick Vallance, GSK’s head of drug discovery, was equally pleased with the partnership explaining that: “The Isis antisense approach offers us an exciting opportunity to target certain severe diseases in a way that has not previously been possible.​”

The agreement fits with GSK recent efforts to build its rare diseases business which, just last month, saw the UK pharmaceutical major launch a dedicated R&D unit.

Speaking at the time Vallance explained that: “The entry into this new therapeutic area forms part of GSK's strategy to deliver more products of value and improve returns in R&D through a focus on areas with a higher probability of success.

He went on to say that: “The risk associated with product discovery and development in rare diseases is generally lower than other disease areas as disease definitions are very clear and clinical trials tend to be small with robust endpoints​.”

The deal is also an indication of the potential GSK sees in RNA-based drugs, given that Isis is the second firm behind Dutch biopharma group Prosensa the UK major has teamed up with.

The agreement, signed last October, is focused on the development of RNA drugs for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) the first of which, PRO044, entered clinical trials yesterday.

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