Ionis (IONS) Out-licenses Hepatitis B Virus Program to Glaxo

Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. IONS announced that it has out-licensed its antisense medicine candidates for treating patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) virus infection to pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline plc GSK. Following positive phase II results, Glaxo exercised its option to in-license the same.

Per the licensing agreement, Glaxo is entitled to pay Ionis a license fee of $25 million along with milestone payments and license fees up to $262 million plus tiered low double-digit royalties on net sales of the product after its potential approval and launch. Going forward, Glaxo will be solely responsible for all the development/commercialization and regulatory activities. It will also bear all the costs incurred in the program.

Both Ionis and Glaxo are reviewing the complete phase II study data and plans to present the results at an upcoming medical conference. The transaction is subject to close under the Hart-Scott Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.

Shares of Ionis slipped almost 2.2% following this news on Tuesday as the announcement might not have gone down well with investors. However, the stock has rallied 22.4% so far this year, outperforming the industry’s rise of 5.6%.

We would like to remind investors that in February this year, Novartis AG NVS obtained a worldwide license to develop and commercialize TQJ230 (AKCEA-APO(a)-LRx) from Akcea Therapeutics, an affiliate of Ionis for treating targeted cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

TQJ230 is an investigational RNA-targeting candidate, developed for treating elevated lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) level, an independent inherited CVD risk in patients. Following this deal, Novartis took over all the responsibilities of the worldwide development and commercialization of this promising heart candidate.

Meanwhile, last December, biotech giant Biogen Inc. BIIB obtained a worldwide license to develop and commercialize Ionis’ pipeline candidate BIIB067 (IONIS-SOD1RX).

BIIB067 is an investigational candidate, currently being evaluated for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients with superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) mutations. Biogen will bear the entire future costs and expenses incurred for the development and commercialization of BIIB067.

Zacks Rank & Key Pick

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

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