Biogen fronts $100M to add Isis R&D pact on neurological diseases

Biogen Idec is clearly enamored with what it's been seeing in its development partnerships with Isis Pharmaceuticals ($ISIS). The big biotech has agreed to front $100 million to get started on their fourth drug collaboration--this one covering neurological diseases.

Biogen Idec ($BIIB) also calibrated its milestones in the deal based on the modality of the molecules that they'll be working on. Isis stands to gain up to $220 million for each antisense molecule, with additional cash covering clinical trial work associated with the research effort.

Biogen already signed on to work with Isis on antisense drugs to treat spinal muscular atrophy and myotonic dystrophy type 1. And last year Isis and Biogen Idec forged another collaboration--totaling $630 million--to discover and develop antisense drugs for three neurological disorder targets.

It's been a busy partnering stretch for Isis.

The day after that last deal with Biogen Idec came down in 2012, Isis stepped back up with a deal involving another marquee player--this time with program-hungry AstraZeneca ($AZN). The pharma giant paid Isis $31 million up front along with an unspecified package of milestones for new antisense drugs that can hit 5 cancer drugs. And AstraZeneca snagged the rights to one of Isis' early-stage drugs, ISIS-STAT3Rx, for advanced lymphomas.

This new deal with Biogen Idec--a leader in the multiple sclerosis field--is likely to focus on neurodegenerative disorders, Isis CEO Stanley Crooke told Reuters. And its full value could amount to the billions. Biogen Idec CEO George Scangos, meanwhile, told Bloomberg that the work could focus on ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Isis has been traveling a long road. Launched in 1989, the company has been pioneering gene-blocking technology. Early this year Isis and its partner Genzyme, now a unit of Sanofi ($SNY), won approval for Kynamro, a new drug for the rare genetic disease homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia, or HoFH.

"This strategic alliance with Isis builds on our existing relationship and combines the unique strengths of each partner to significantly advance the treatment of serious neurological diseases," said Douglas Williams, Biogen Idec's executive vice president of research and development. "Antisense is a validated technology that we believe will help build our pipeline of antisense, small molecule and biologics programs, strengthening our leadership in neurology."

- here's the press release
- read the report from Reuters
- see the story from Bloomberg

Special Report: Isis Pharmaceuticals and Biogen Idec - Top 20 biotech licensing deals in H1 2012