Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is one of the leading genetic diseases of children and infants. SMA is caused by deletions or mutations of Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. SMN2, a nearly identical copy of SMN1, cannot compensate for the loss of SMN1 due to predominant skipping of exon 7. While various regulatory elements that modulate SMN2 exon 7 splicing have been proposed, intronic splicing silencer N1 (ISS-N1) has emerged as the most promising target thus far for antisense oligonucleotide-mediated splicing correction in SMA. Upon procuring exclusive license from the University of Massachussets Medical School in 2010, Ionis Pharmaceuticals (formerly ISIS Pharamaceuticals) began clinical development of Spinraza™ (synonyms: Nusinersen, IONIS-SMNRX, ISIS-SMNRX), an antisense drug based on ISS-N1 target. Spinraza™ showed very promising results at all steps of the clinical development and was approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 23, 2016. Spinraza™ is the first FDA-approved treatment for SMA and the first antisense drug to restore expression of a fully functional protein via splicing correction. The success of Spinraza™ underscores the potential of intronic sequences as promising therapeutic targets and sets the stage for further improvement of antisense drugs based on advanced oligonucleotide chemistries and delivery protocols.
Keywords: IONIS-SMNRX; ISIS-SMNRX; ISS-N1; SMN; Spinraza; antisense oligonucleotides; nusinersen; spinal muscular atrophy; splicing regulation; survival motor neuron protein.