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ISIS Pharma changes name to Ionis to avoid 'distracting' militant association

Published on 21/12/15 at 10:53am
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Isis Pharma has changed its name to Ionis to avoid association with Islamic State

After months of discussion, ISIS Pharmaceuticals has changed its name to Ionis to free itself from the fear of confusion and association with the Islamist militant group Islamic State.

In a statement, the company did not reference the militant group as a reason for its decision, but instead chose to focus on what the new name says about its work. Ionis said it had selected the name to represent “its innovative culture and heritage as both the pioneer and leader in the RNA-targeted therapeutic space for the past 26 years.”

However, Speaking to Reuters, chief business officer Sarah Boyce acknowledged that fear of association played a part in the change, saying: “It's been an ongoing discussion for most of this year. When you talk about the company you want people to immediately think about the incredible work you're doing to deliver transformational drugs to patients...not as an unfortunate namesake."

ISIS founder and chief executive Stanley Crooke had initially rejected suggestions, first made last year, that his company should change its name, saying the ‘terrorists’ should be the ones to change their name. However, he told Forbes this week that the ‘distraction’ of the name had forced his hand, despite the fact that a survey of investors had revealed no serious concerns. The company, founded in 1989, was originally named after the Egyptian goddess.

Newly-branded Ionis is currently focused on its late Phase III assets to the market, including nusinersen for spinal muscular atrophy, and volanesorsen for hyperlipoproteinemia – a disorder which renders the body unable to break down fats or lipids.  

The Carlsbad, California-based company is partnered with several pharma giants, including AstraZeneca, Bayer and Biogen. It reported last month that it had already received $16 million in milestone payments from Biogen and GSK in Q4 2015 alone.

Joel Levy

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