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Roche to use Isis's technology to develop brain disorder drug

The logo of the Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen on a factory in Burgdorf near Bern November 17, 2010. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener
The logo of the Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen on a factory in Burgdorf near Bern November 17, 2010. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

(Reuters) - Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc said it will form an alliance with Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG to develop treatments for Huntington's disease, a genetic brain disorder, based on the U.S. company's technology.

Roche will pay Isis $30 million upfront and up to $362 million in licensing and milestone payments. Isis will also receive tiered royalties on sales of any commercial drugs that result from the partnership.

Development will initially focus on Isis's lead drug candidate that blocks the production of all forms of the Huntingtin protein, responsible for the disorder.

Huntington's disease results in the progressive loss of both mental and physical abilities, with symptoms usually appearing between the ages of 30 and 50.

Isis will be responsible for the discovery and development of any drug that uses the company's antisense technology, a mechanism that works by inhibiting a cell's production of the disease-causing protein.

About 1 in every 10,000 people in the United States suffer from the disorder, according to Huntington's Disease Society of America.

Roche has the option to license the drugs from Isis through the completion of the first early stage trial.

The companies will also collaborate on the development of a drug utilizing Roche's "brain shuttle" program, which seeks to improve penetration of antisense drugs.

"We believe our mature antisense drug discovery platform is a perfect fit for Roche's neuroscience franchise, and we anticipate a fruitful collaboration to advance our pre-clinical compounds," Frank Bennett, senior vice president of research at Isis, said in a statement.

Isis shares were up 1 percent at $17.58 in morning trade on the Nasdaq on Monday.

(Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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