Roche and Isis Pharmaceuticals form Huntington’s alliance

Roche will pay an upfront fee of US$30m to Isis

Swiss drugmaker Roche and Isis Pharmaceuticals have formed an alliance to develop treatments for Huntington‘s disease, based on Isis‘ antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) technology.

Initially, research will focus on Isis‘ leading drug candidate that blocks production of all forms of the huntingtin (HTT) protein, which is responsible for the inherited brain disorder. The US firm is also conducting research into treatments that specifically block production of the disease-causing forms of the HTT protein which has the potential to treat subsets of HD patients.

Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will pay an upfront fee of US$30m to Isis and up to $362m in licensing and milestone payments, plus tiered royalties on sales of the drugs. Roche has the option to license the drugs from Isis through the completion of the first Phase 1 trial.

Commenting on the deal, Luca Santarelli, Head of Neuroscience and Small Molecules Research at Roche, said Huntington‘s is a severely debilitating neurodegenerative disease and treatments are urgently needed.

He added that the Isis approach in combination with Roche‘s ‘brain shuttle’ technology, which allows systemic administration of antisense drugs ‘represent one of the most advanced programmes targeting the cause of HD with the aim of slowing down or halting the progression of this disease’.

Shafique Virani, Global Head Neuroscience, Cardiovascular & Metabolism at Roche Partnering, added: ‘This dual track development programme ensures whichever candidate compound proves to be most promising – Isis' lead target or Roche's brain shuttle version – can be taken forward to pivotal clinical trials.’

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