Ionis taps Progenity to create oral antisense therapies

Ionis Pharmaceuticals has teamed up with Progenity to evaluate the oral systemic delivery of antisense oligonucleotides. The collaboration combines Progenity’s ingestible capsules with Ionis’ antisense molecules.

Progenity, a provider of molecular tests for fertility and cancer risk, has stepped up its interest in the oral delivery of large molecules in recent years, leading to the initiation of a phase 1 trial of its capsules in healthy volunteers. The study is an early step in an effort that could lead to oral formulations of drugs including AbbVie’s Humira. 

The work has caught the attention of Ionis. Progenity will work with the antisense specialist to assess if technology designed to enable delivery of a drug formulated in a solution directly into the tissues of the small intestine is suitable for use with antisense oligonucleotides. The delivery technology has mainly been used with monoclonals, proteins and peptides so far.

In the first phase of the collaboration, the partners will evaluate the in vitro compatibility and performance of formulations of Progenity’s delivery technology and Ionis’ oligonucleotides. Progenity and Ionis will also assess the in vivo safety, tolerability and performance of the oral formulations in a preclinical canine model.

Ionis has a long-standing interest in the oral delivery of antisense molecules, teaming up with Johnson & Johnson in 2015 to work on locally administered gastrointestinal treatments. The work led to the delivery of candidates to J&J in 2016 and 2017. One of the candidates, ION253, moved into phase 1 last year.

Other groups are also pursuing oral delivery of antisense molecules. In 2018, Roche agreed to pay up to $36 million in near-term fees, plus potentially more than $1 billion in milestones, for access to PureTech Health’s milk-derived exosome technology. The exosomes encase drugs to protect them from the environment they will encounter in the gastrointestinal tract.