Isis Pharmaceuticals is expanding its reach into even more drug areas after signing another major drug development partnership with AstraZeneca, bringing the Carlsbad biotech $65 million upfront.

Under the deal, Isis will find and develop drugs for cardiovascular, metabolic and kidney diseases, using Isis' antisense technology. In addition to the upfront payment, Isis will get development and regulatory milestone payments, and is eligible to earn double-digit royalties on net sales.

Unlike most local biotechs that develop only a few drug candidates at a time, Isis is currently developing 38 drugs. Its platform for drug discovery, called antisense technology, has been used for over 25 years.

Antisense technology is a new way of making drugs that targets RNA rather than the more traditional approach of targeting small molecules and proteins. Isis CEO Stanley Crooke said the method is “dramatically more efficient and more usable” than previous platforms.

The company’s main priority is discovery rather than commercialization. It lets Big Pharma front the cash and take on sales and marketing for a chunk of the profit. Over the years, Isis has partnered with pharma giants such as GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Biogen and Bayer.