Antisense has attracted considerable attention, most recently thanks to Pfizer's
Unfortunately, antisense hasn't exactly been a smash success. Isis' many alliances lend credibility to the company's technology, but one shouldn't overestimate the significance of such deals. Pfizer's latest agreement, for example, is modest -- the drug giant will pay Isis $1 million for access to technology and royalties on any drugs resulting from the collaboration. As for Isis' own efforts, since its founding in 1989, the company's only commercial product is Vitravene, a drug launched in 1998 for an eye condition affecting people with AIDS. Even with Vitravene, Isis continues to land in the red; its first-quarter loss from operations amounted to $23.5 million.
In Isis' defense, it has a fairly deep pipeline. The company is preparing for a phase 3 trial for alicaforsen, a compound for ulcerative colitis, and plans to start a phase 2 study for a cholesterol-controlling drug. Still, Isis has seen grand plans fizzle before. Antisense remains an intriguing concept, but investors should keep their fingers crossed.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.