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AstraZeneca licenses Ionis' NASH drug in $300m deal

PBR Staff Writer Published 10 April 2018

AstraZeneca has licensed a fatty liver disease treatment IONIS-AZ6-2.5-LRx (AZD2693) from Ionis Pharmaceuticals in a deal that could fetch up to $300m for the California firm in milestone payments.

IONIS-AZ6-2.5-LRx has been designed by the US company to inhibit an undisclosed target for the treatment of patients having nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

AstraZeneca and Ionis had previously entered into a partnership focused on tapping the antisense technology of the latter to discover and develop antisense therapies for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases.

The licensing of the drug follows its advancement from target validation into the development stage. It is now the third drug under the Ionis-AstraZeneca collaboration to have entered into development with the milestone enabling Ionis an upfront license fee of $30m.

AstraZeneca will now take care of the further development and commercialization of the NASH drug.

As per the terms of the licensing deal, Ionis will be eligible to get up to $300m in the form of additional development and regulatory milestone payments along with tiered royalties from sales of the NASH drug.

Ionis Pharmaceuticals chief operating officer, antisense drug discovery and translational medicine senior vice president Brett Monia said: “IONIS-AZ6-2.5-LRx incorporates many of the advancements we have made in antisense technology, including our LIgand-Conjugated Antisense (LICA) and Generation 2.5 chemistry, and is the second drug in our collaboration to incorporate both modifications.

“By combining Generation 2.5 and LICA, we generate drugs that have the advantages of both higher affinity chemistry and efficient cell-specific targeting.”

Monia further said that the Generation 2.5 and LICA combination helps in developing drugs that are more potent than the two individual constituents. Also, the combination supports administration of infrequent, very low doses, and even allows the possibility for oral dosing, said Monia.

Ionis and AstraZeneca have also formed a partnership to discover and develop antisense drugs for the treatment of cancer.

Last month, Ionis licensed the global rights to inotersen and AKCEA-TTR-LRx (formerly IONIS-TTR-LRx) to Akcea Therapeutics in a deal potentially worth around $1.7bn.


Image: AstraZeneca UK Sales and Marketing Horizon Place, United Kingdom. Photo: courtesy of AstraZeneca.