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Ionis (IONS) Collaborates With AstraZeneca for Eplontersen

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Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (IONS - Free Report) announced a strategic collaboration with AstraZeneca (AZN - Free Report) to jointly develop and commercialize eplontersen in the United States. Eplontersen, formerly known as IONIS-TTR-LRx, is Ionis’ investigational antisense medicine for the treatment of transthyretin amyloidosis (ATTR), a progressive and fatal disease.

Ionis was until now developing eplontersen on its own in phase III studies in patients with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis (hATTR) with polyneuropathy (NEURO-TTRansform) and cardiomyopathy (CARDIO-TTRansform). Ionis will continue to lead the development of the candidate in the ongoing phase III studies. While the companies will have joint development and commercialization rights in the United States, AstraZeneca has exclusive rights to commercialize it in the rest of the world.

Ionis plans to seek approval of eplontersen for hATTR with polyneuropathy indication by the end of 2022 if the data from the NEURO-TTRansform study is positive.

Per the terms of the deal, AstraZeneca will make an upfront payment of $200 million to Ionis. In addition, Ionis will also be entitled to up to $485 million in development and approval milestones, and up to $2.9 billion in sales-related milestone payments.

Ionis’ shares were up 11.2% on Tuesday in response to the news as the deal will strengthen Ionis’ commercial capabilities as AstraZeneca enjoys a solid position in the cardiovascular market. This year so far, Ionis’ shares have declined 45.9% compared with the industry’s decrease of 20.9%.

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Ionis has collaboration deals with leading drugmakers/biotech companies like AstraZeneca. With AstraZeneca, Ionis is already developing several medicines to treat cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH and cancer.

Ionis has licensed Spinraza to Biogen (BIIB - Free Report) , which is responsible for commercializing the drug approved for treating spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, worldwide. Ionis receives royalties from Biogen on Spinraza’s sales.

Biogen has also expanded its collaboration with Ionis to identify new gene therapies for the treatment of SMA as well as a broad range of neurological diseases. Under these collaborations, the companies are currently developing eight medicines to treat neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Ionis is developing pelacarsen in partnership with Novartis (NVS - Free Report) in late-stage studies for cardiovascular disease due to elevated Lp(a) levels. In February 2019, Novartis licensed pelacarsen from Ionis. Novartis is now responsible for conducting and funding the development of pelacarsen, including a global phase III Lp(a) HORIZON cardiovascular outcome study.

The HORIZON study on pelacarsen reached 50% enrollment in the third quarter for which Ionis earned a $25 million milestone payment from Novartis.

Ionis currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.