Yet another firm is tapping Isis for its antisense technology. In the latest deal, AstraZeneca formed an alliance with the firm for the discovery and development of novel generation antisense therapeutics against five cancer targets. The agreement 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.

This 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.

Several other firms are interested in Isis’ antisense technology. Just yesterday, the firm reported receiving $30 million from Biogen Idec in a deal to discover and develop antisense drugs against three undisclosed targets to treat neurological or neuromuscular disorders. Last month, Pfizer paid Isis $1.25 million in a scar treatment deal. The payment was triggered when Pfizer decided to advance EXC 001, an antisense oligonucleotide designed to interrupt the process of fibrosis by inhibiting expression of connective tissue growth factor, into a Phase II study. In addition, Isis has ongoing collaborations with Genzyme, Alnylam, and GlaxoSmithKline. Isis’ modus operandi is to discover and conduct early development of new drugs and then outlicense those drugs to partners with late-stage development, commercialization, and marketing expertise.

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 and inhibit the production of disease-causing proteins.

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