AstraZeneca and Isis Pharmaceuticals will collaborate to develop antisense therapies for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases.

Antisense drugs are short, chemically-modified, single-stranded nucleic acids that have the ability to target any gene product. They can act inside the cell to target RNA and prevent the production of disease-causing proteins, increase the production of proteins deficient in disease, or target toxic RNAs that are unable to generate proteins.

Under the terms of the deal, AZ will pay $65 million to Isis upfront. Isis will also be eligible for milestone payments and tiered royalties on annual net sales.

The two companies have previously teamed up to investigate RNA therapeutics for cancer.

“Antisense-based therapies are rapidly gaining momentum in the clinic and becoming an important component of our early stage pipeline,” says Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca.

“This collaboration combines the world-class antisense drug research capabilities of Isis with our expertise in cardiovascular, metabolic and renal disease drug discovery and development. By working together we aim to uncover targets and pathways that can be manipulated using antisense drug therapy.”