ISIS Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ISIS) announced that it has initiated a Phase 1/2a clinical study of ISIS-HTTRx in patients with Huntington’s disease (HD). ISIS-HTTRx is the first therapy to enter clinical development that is designed to directly target the cause of the disease by reducing the production of the protein responsible for HD. HD is a rare genetic neurological disease in which patients experience deterioration of both mental abilities and physical control. Presently, there are no disease-modifying treatments for HD, with current therapies focused only on treating disease symptoms.   ISIS-HTTRx has been granted orphan drug designation by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of patients with HD.  Orphan drug designation is granted to products designed to diagnose, prevent or treat life-threatening or very serious conditions that affect not more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union.

“Although the toxic protein produced from the huntingtin (HTT) gene in HD patients has been a target of interest for many years, no therapies have advanced to clinical trials to treat the underlying cause of the disease. Our antisense technology has enabled us to discover and develop ISIS-HTTRx, the first therapeutic approach designed to treat the genetic cause of HD. Together with Roche, we are committed to investigating this approach to treat patients with HD, a devastating disease that typically affects generations of families,” said C. Frank Bennett, Ph.D., senior vice president of research at Isis Pharmaceuticals.

“Initiating the clinical study of ISIS-HTTRx in patients with HD is the first step in developing a treatment that could significantly impact a patient’s disease. It is also an important milestone in our collaboration with Roche. As we advance this program, we will continue to benefit from Roche’s scientific expertise in developing therapeutics for neurodegenerative conditions,” said B. Lynne Parshall, chief operating officer of Isis Pharmaceuticals.

The randomized, placebo-controlled, dose escalation Phase 1/2a clinical study will evaluate the safety and activity of ISIS-HTTRx  in patients with early stage HD.  In this study, ISIS-HTTRx  will be administered intrathecally as an injection directly into the cerebral spinal fluid. Intrathecal administration of antisense drugs has been shown to be well tolerated in multiple clinical studies in patients.

“The initial development of this antisense drug for Huntington’s disease came out of a longstanding productive partnership between Isis and CHDI, and its advancement now to clinical trial is testament to Isis’ perseverance and scientific expertise,” said Robi Blumenstein, president of CHDI Management, which oversees the activities of CHDI Foundation, a nonprofit research organization exclusively dedicated to the development of therapies that will slow the progression of HD. “It’s exciting that therapeutic candidates grounded in the biology of Huntington’s disease are finally making their way to clinical trial.” (Original Source )

Shares of Isis Pharmaceuticals closed yesterday at $55.68. ISIS has a 1-year high of $77.80 and a 1-year low of $28.02. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $60.52 and its 200-day moving average is $64.70.

On the ratings front, Isis Pharmaceuticals has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on June 23, Needham analyst Chad Messer reiterated a Buy rating on ISIS, with a price target of $91, which implies an upside of 63.4% from current levels. Separately, on June 22, Deutsche Bank’s Alethia Young reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $78.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Chad Messer and Alethia Young have a total average return of 8.2% and 8.7% respectively. Messer has a success rate of 39.5% and is ranked #879 out of 3711 analysts, while Young has a success rate of 53.3% and is ranked #945.

Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc is engaged in antisense drug discovery and development, exploiting a novel drug discovery platform it created to generate a broad pipeline of first-in-class drugs.