Biogen Idec strikes $299M deal for Isis antisense drug

Joining a race of pharma giants to treat rare cases of spinal muscular atrophy, Biogen Idec ($BIIB) has committed up to $299 million to grab rights to an antisense drug program in the pipeline at Isis ($ISIS). In the pact, Biogen will pay Isis $29 million upfront and up to $45 million in milestones for an option to a $225 million licensing pact on the treatment. And Isis says the partners are on track to a potential regulatory approval once proof-of-concept data arrive.

"This alliance is consistent with our business strategy to develop antisense drugs to proof-of-concept with a knowledgeable partner that is committed to supporting the rapid development of the drug," said Isis CEO Stanley T. Crooke. "Given the severity of the unmet need in SMA, our proof-of-concept studies should also serve as the registrational trials for ISIS-SMNRx. We believe that, together with Biogen Idec, we will be able to expeditiously develop this investigational drug in hopes of bringing to market an effective and desperately needed treatment to improve the lives of children with SMA."

Bloomberg's Robert Langreth believes that the deal gives Biogen Idec the inside track on a new treatment for the lethal condition, which afflicts some 9,000 people inside the U.S. Just weeks ago Roche ($RHHBY) committed $490 million to partner with PTC Therapeutics on its program for spinal muscular atrophy. And Novartis ($NVS) is also busy with its own program, another sign of the growing popularity of new treatments for rare conditions.

"This has the potential of being truly transformative, if the preclinical data are in any way reflected in the outcome of clinical studies," Columbia's Darryl De Vivo, an Isis consultant, tells Bloomberg.

- here's the press release
- read the Bloomberg story