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Roche, Ionis enter collaboration worth up to $760M for antisense drug

Roche Holding AG entered an agreement, valued at up to $760 million, to develop and commercialize Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s IONIS-FB-LRx medicine for a number of diseases, including an eye disorder.

The companies will first develop IONIS-FB-LRx to treat geographic atrophy, the advanced stage of dry age-related macular degeneration — a condition that can cause loss of vision.

Ionis said a phase 1 trial of IONIS-FB-LRx showed that the drug reduces the production of Factor B, a protein associated with the development of several diseases, including dry age-related macular degeneration. The medicine was also found to be safe and well tolerated in 54 healthy volunteers in the trial.

Under the agreement, Roche will pay Ionis an upfront fee of $75 million and up to $684 million tied to certain development, regulatory and sales milestone payments and license fees. Ionis may also receive royalties on the sales of the therapy, once commercialized.

California-based Ionis is responsible for conducting a phase 2 study in patients with dry age-related macular degeneration and exploring the drug to treat a rare severe kidney condition.

Roche has the option to license IONIS-FB-LRx once the studies are complete. Upon licensing, the Swiss drugmaker will be responsible for all global development and commercialization activities.

This is not the first time Roche is collaborating with Ionis. In 2017, the company exercised its option to develop and commercialize Ionis' IONIS-HTTRx to treat Huntington's disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain resulting in deterioration in mental abilities and physical control.

In June, Ionis also closed a collaboration agreement worth about $1 billion with Biogen Inc. to develop novel antisense drugs for neurological diseases.