Johnson & Johnson has signed an $835 million pact with Carlsbad-based Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., joining a growing list of big companies allied with the local company’s research and development group.

The funding will support the development of new drugs for autoimmune diseases of the gastrointestinal tract by RNA specialists at Isis.

Just a few months after AstraZeneca expanded its development work with Isis, J&J is paying $35 million upfront and offering up to $800 million in milestones for the deal. Isis also stands to earn royalties from any marketed drugs that comes from its antisense technology platform.

The deal covers three programs and marks an extension of Isis’ active partnering operation, which has attracted a Who's Who in the biopharma business. In addition to AstraZeneca, Isis has lured Biogen Idec, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline with its antisense tech.

Isis' partner Genzyme Corp., a subsidiary of Sanofi, is commercializing Kynamro, which got off to a slow start in 2014. The biotech also has a full pipeline of 34 new drugs in development.