Isis fights antisense cynicism

Antisense technology has generated a great deal of skepticism among investors, who worry about everything from whether oligonucleotides get into cells, to manufacturing, to price.
Stanley Crooke, Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. chairman, president and CEO, met with BioCentury recently to outline the progress against the critics' concerns. His comments were echoed by a new report from the analyst firm of Mehta and Isaly, which supports Crooke's contention that antisense is maturing more rapidly than even some experts are aware.
Antisense compounds are the mirror image of a small segment of a messenger RNA. By binding to that segment, oligonucleotides inhibit production of the protein encoded in the RNA.
"One of my concerns in starting Isis was there was a lot of sloppy science six or seven years ago that led to cynicism about the area," Crooke said. "Everyone thought it was simple, did simple experiments and didn't do the controls that needed to be done."
Crooke said proponents of the technology faced several fundamental questions, ranging from doubts about its fundamental feasibility to the ability to manufacture the compounds. "These were all reasonable questions for which we had no data," said Crooke, who outlined some of the subsequent findings that he believes should create a renewed interest in the field.
ISIP picked phosphorothioate oligos as its first-generation