Ionis farms out antisense drug to AstraZeneca in deal worth up to $330M

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Ionis and AstraZeneca have discovery and development deals around antisense drugs for cancer and cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases. (Rudy and Peter Skitterians)

Ionis Pharmaceuticals has licensed an antisense drug to AstraZeneca, picking up a $30 million payment in the process. The British pharma will take over the development and commercialization of IONIS-AZ5-2.5Rx, which is designed for the treatment of kidney disease.

"This is the second drug to enter development under our strategic collaboration with AstraZeneca in cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases. IONIS-AZ5-2.5Rx is being developed to treat a genetically associated form of kidney disease with a high unmet medical need,” said Brett Monia, COO and senior vice president of antisense drug discovery and translational medicine at Ionis, in a statement.

In addition to the $30 million upfront licensing fee, Ionis stands to receive up to $300 million in tiered royalties as well as development and regulatory milestones, the company said.

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The news is a relief for Carlsbad, Calif.-based Ionis, which first teamed up with AstraZeneca in 2012 when it was still going by Isis Pharma. The initial alliance focused on developing antisense therapies for five cancer targets. But in early 2016, AstraZeneca kicked the Ionis drug AZD5312 to the curb, which had been in early studies for prostate cancer.

Ionis and AstraZeneca followed on their initial deal with a treatment delivery collaboration in 2014 and a pact to discover and develop antisense therapies for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases in August 2015.

Ionis recently outlicensed a GI antisense candidate to Janssen for a $5 million fee, the second drug it signed over through a larger collaboration that could see the biotech picking up as much as $800 million in licensing fees, milestone payments and royalties. In July 2016, it handed over the rights to a different GI drug to Janssen for $10 million.