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Paris Attacks Prompt Isis Pharmaceuticals to Mull a Name Change

  • Drugmaker says 26-year-old moniker may have become distraction
  • Paris attacks were personal; `It really weighed heavily'

The terrorist attacks in Paris may have finally spurred a brand change for Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., a drugmaker that until now has steadfastly held on to its name even as the militant group rose in prominence in the Middle East.

"We want the story to be about the medicines that we’re creating, and not about our name," D. Wade Walke, a spokesman for the drugmaker, said in an interview on Wednesday. "If it looks like it’s come to that point, and it may have -- that it’s become too much of a distraction away from our core mission, and our focus -- then it’s time for a change."

Named after Isis, the Egyptian goddess associated with good health, the company has had the moniker since its founding 26 years ago. Its ticker symbol on the Nasdaq, ISIS, is also under review by the company.

The drugmaker held out longer than the Isis mobile wallet app owned by AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc., which changed its name to Softcard more than a year ago, then shut down a few months later.

Investors Unconcerned

Isis Pharmaceuticals recently surveyed investors asking whether the name was an issue, and found that most respondents weren’t concerned, especially institutional investors, said Walke. The company sells to doctors and hospitals more than individual consumers, making the name less of a problem, he said.

So what changed? While ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and affiliated terror groups have launched attacks previously, this time was personal for the drugmaker. "It really weighed heavily on us because we have employees here at the company who are actually natives of France, and it affected them very personally," said Walke. "It made us rethink if we really want to be associated with that."

The Carlsbad, California-based company is discussing its identity and the implications of a full rebranding. Walke said that the company expects a decision on the brand change "fairly soon," although an actual name may come later.

CNN Money reported the potential name change earlier.

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