Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Friday that it has signed anagreement with Eisai Co. Ltd., granting Eisai an exclusivelicense in Japan to develop and market an Isis antisense drugto treat ocular and genital herpes infections.

Under the terms of the agreement, Isis will receive a"substantial" up-front licensing fee and milestone payments,said Chief Executive Officer Dr. Stanley Crooke. "Milestonepayments for the two indications will generate significantrevenues for Isis in the next several years, especially nextyear," Crooke said.

Isis will manufacture the drug, Isis 1082, and receive aroyalty on sales in Japan. Eisai may, for an additional licensingfee, acquire rights to market Isis 1082 for other indications.

The topical drug enters infected cells and "inhibits a specificherpes gene that we believe is essential for replication ofmost strains of HSV 1 and 2, and is designed to interact with aconserved sequence of both," Crooke said.

The current market for all herpes products worldwide is $500million, and $200 million in Japan, said Crooke.

The license agreement is the first for an antisense product indevelopment, he said.

Eisai will most likely wait to begin clinical trials in Japanuntil after Isis finishes Phase II trials in the United States,Crooke said. Isis will file by the end of 1991 aninvestigational new drug application to begin clinical trials ofeither Isis 1082 or Isis 2105. Isis 2105 is directed against thehuman papilloma virus.

Eisai and Isis began a five-year collaboration last December todevelop antisense therapeutics and diagnostics for anundisclosed DNA virus.

Shares of the Carlsbad, Calif., company (NASDAQ:ISIP) closedup 75 cents on Friday at $17.50.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.