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Isis/AstraZeneca Expand Antisense Technology Collaboration

Zacks Equity Research

Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ISIS) and AstraZeneca (AZN) have teamed up yet again – this time to discover and develop novel delivery methods for antisense oligonucleotides. The companies aim to develop new delivery methods, which will not only enhance the access of antisense oligonucleotides into specific organs and cells but will also target the tissue more effectively.

As per the agreement, both the companies will finance their own contributions and provide investigators to the collaboration. The companies working together on an agreed program will share rights to the results. The project areas will initially include oncology and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. As per agreement terms, Isis Pharma can apply the findings from this collaboration broadly across its antisense technology platform while AstraZeneca can make use of the same across its broader RNA-based, small molecule and antibody research and development activities.

Isis Pharma’s association with AstraZeneca goes back to 2012 when the companies had entered into a collaboration, development and license agreement for the discovery and development of five antisense oncology drugs. Under the agreement, one of the candidates that is being developed is ISIS-STAT3Rx (phase Ib/IIa - advanced metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma), while the second candidate is ISIS-ARRx (phase I - prostate cancer). The new delivery collaboration between the companies will support their existing programs.

We note that Isis Pharma generated revenue of $19.7 million in the first nine months of 2014, which represented 15% of total revenue, as a result of its partnership with AstraZeneca.

Besides AstraZeneca, Isis Pharma has partnership agreements with other leading health care companies like Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB) and Sanofi (SNY).

Isis Pharma’s agreements with these companies not only validate its antisense technology but also provide it with funds in the form of upfront, milestone and other payments.

Isis Pharma currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the health care sector is Biogen carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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