Isis Pharmaceuticals of Carlsbad, Calif., and global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have formed a strategic alliance for the discovery and development of novel generation antisense therapeutics against five cancer targets, which includes a license to develop and commercialize ISIS-STAT3Rx, a drug Isis is currently evaluating in an early clinical trial in patients with advanced lymphomas.
Isis will receive from AstraZeneca $31 million in upfront and near term payments, comprising a $25 million payment on signing followed by a $6 million payment in the second quarter of 2013 assuming the research program is continuing. In exchange, Isis has granted AstraZeneca an exclusive license to develop and commercialize ISIS-STAT3Rx and a pre-clinical program as well as an option to license products developed under a separate research program. Once licensed, AstraZeneca will be responsible for all further development and commercialization. AstraZeneca will be responsible for all development of ISIS-STAT3Rx other than the conduct of the ongoing clinical trial, which Isis will complete.
Furthermore, Isis is eligible to receive additional milestone payments subject to achieving certain predefined clinical success criteria for the ISIS-STAT3Rx program and pre-clinical milestones for the other programs. Isis is also eligible to receive downstream development and approval milestone payments, license fees for research program targets as well as royalties on sales from products that are successfully commercialized.
The strategic alliance aims to apply AstraZeneca's experience in developing personalized medicines to enhance the drug discovery and development process for four research programs in the oncology area and to aid in the development of ISIS-STAT3Rx for patient populations that could benefit the most from inhibition of STAT3, a protein that drives cancer growth. The combination of Isis' antisense technology and its new Generation 2.5 chemistry, which increases the potency of its therapeutics, provides AstraZeneca the opportunity to develop drugs that could be much more effective in cancers that are difficult to address with conventional small molecules or antibodies. Antisense therapies target the proteins involved in disease processes by destroying the RNA that is involved in creating these proteins. The Isis discovery platform develops specific therapies that bind to messenger RNA (mRNA) and inhibit the production of disease-causing proteins.
"Isis' antisense technology platform allows AstraZeneca to broaden our oncology research efforts beyond traditional drug discovery methods, while at the same time becoming more specific about how we target cancer," said Susan Galbraith, head of the oncology innovative medicines unit, AstraZeneca. “AstraZeneca's expertise in oncology translational science and our global capabilities in development and commercialization of oncology products and Isis' innovative approach to discovering novel medicines reflect a common goal of bringing new medicines to cancer patients.”