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Time For A Name Change

Well, this was just a matter of time, and that time has most certainly come. CNN is reporting that the longtime antisense-DNA company ISIS Pharmaceuticals is indeed thinking about changing its name, and who can blame them? This reminds me of the situation in the 1980s, when there was a company that had for years marketed a weight-loss product. It was a (supposedly) filling candy that you were supposed to eat before meals, to help you eat less as an aid to dieting, and the product was, in fact, called “Ayds”. Same pronunciation. That kind of had to be rebranded, too, and to be honest, I don’t know if the product (or the company) survived the experience. Update: turns out that they didn’t. . .

So I have some sympathy for the company, since they didn’t ask for this sort of trouble. As for the organization that’s causing this rethink, I don’t have adequate words. It occurred to me on Friday (and not for the first time) that almost everything I spend my time doing would be considered valueless at best, and various levels of forbidden at worst, by these people. For all its complications, I much prefer the 21st century to the seventh.

34 comments on “Time For A Name Change”

  1. Dr. Zoidberg says:

    Some good people at Isis, I hope this doesn’t cause too much turmoil.

  2. Annon says:

    I wonder if the name change will make it easier, or harder to recruit people…

  3. Anchor says:

    Speaking of ISIS a riveting article by MI6 agent is appropriate here. His take, both ISIS?KSA are joined at the hips! Go read @

  4. Morten G says:

    They make antisense and their name is ISIS…
    Though ISIL seems the favoured name on Al Jazeera and I heard Daesh was preferred in the Middle East (and hated by ISIS).

    Anyway, they should rename it Mother Pharmaceuticals.

  5. Isidore says:

    A couple of decades ago I almost gave my daughter “Isis” as her middle name. In fact I wanted her first name to be Isis, but my wife objected because there was some silly TV show when she was growing up with a black cat named Isis. She finally agreed to Isis as a middle name, but eventually we opted for a family name instead. My daughter is pleased that my wish did not become reality.

  6. Ash (Wavefunction) says:

    A friend of mine named his daughter Isis right before the whole thing started appearing in the news. Boy is she going to hate him when she grows up…

  7. Polynices says:

    Not as disruptive as renaming a whole company, but a few years ago mobile phones came with “Isis Mobile Wallet” installed. The icon on screen even said ISIS in big letters. Oops. Now they’re “Softcard”.

  8. Philip Ahern says:

    The river that flows through Oxford, UK is the Isis, and the technology transfer partner for the University of Oxford is also named ISIS (

  9. Jonas says:

    A long-running cause of slight amusement when shopping here in Denmark has been the fact that ISIS is one of Denmark’s leading makers of sugar free foods. So ISIS does less harm to diabetics. (Yes, Danish humor is black and morbid – this probably wouldn’t pass muster in America).
    The name simply is an abbreviation of ‘Ice Cream Ltd’ in Danish = IS IS

    Anyway, they finally decided to come to terms with their name being scooped, so yesterday they announced a name change. Which is not that simple when you’re a decent size company, but probably still worth the hassle…


    1. Daniel says:

      Ice Cream Ltd.?

      They always knew they’d be scooped eventually.

      (Yes, I went there)

  10. Matt says:

    Ayds (pronounced as “aids”) Reducing Plan Candy was an appetite-suppressant candy which enjoyed strong sales in the 1970s and early 1980s and was originally manufactured by The Campana Company. It was available in chocolate, chocolate mint, butterscotch, and caramel flavors, and later a peanut butter flavor was introduced. The original packaging used the phrase “Ayds Reducing Plan vitamin and mineral Candy;” a later version used the phrase “appetite suppressant candy.” The active ingredient was originally benzocaine, presumably to reduce the sense of taste to reduce eating, later changed in the candy (as reported by The New York Times) to phenylpropanolamine.

    Does this mean that “candy” is a magic FDA-repellant word like “supplement?” Spice of Life Candy, made with natural African tramadol: I’m gonna be rich.

    1. Justa Retiree says:

      I used to snitch my stepmother’s Ayds from her hiding place under the counter at our our small town variety store. For a time, I thought they were her private stash of caramels. I wonder which active ingredient I got.

  11. Veylon says:

    The ISIS folks – much like their Al Qaeda forebears – love their technology. Look up any of their rallies, they’re packed with people taking pictures with smart phones. Their fighters happily text message and tweet each other.

    They’re horrifically barbaric to be sure, but it’s more of a Nazi kind of barbarity in which the fruits of science are openly used and embraced for the purposes of the movement. ISIS wants to rule your television, not make you bury it. Of course, this makes them all the more dangerous; they aren’t content like the Taliban to simply sit up in the mountains somewhere.

  12. Charlie Kilian says:

    Oh man! I think we’ve stumbled on a way to do some real damage to the pseudoscience scams. Can we renamed chlamydia to “homeopathic” and syphilis to “detoxification”?

  13. sillybear says:

    On the adult cartoon “Archer” the name of the spy agency the characters work for is ISIS.
    I think we should refer to the group in Iraq & Syria by any name the hate, so Daesh or Pigf*ckers or the Child Rapist Group.

    1. NJBiologist says:

      The agency was named ISIS–in Season 6, they became a part of the CIA and all traces of their former agency identity disappeared.

  14. Creelhe says:

    There is also a band from Boston who adopted the name ISIS back in the 90s… who began to suffer a barage of abuse from morons thinking it’s actually the jihadists playing post-hardcore/sludge/progressive metal music, and not just a coincidence. It got to the point where their Facebook page was renamed “Isis the Band”.

  15. steve says:

    In the early days of ISIS (the pharma) I went to a lecture on antisense where the guy wrote the following on the blackboard:
    As far as the name, ISIS was a greek goddess who fell in loved with her brother, Osiris, who was killed by another brother name Set. He cut Osiris into 14 pieces. ISIS was able to recover 13 pieces, but not the 14th (his penis), which had been eaten by a crab (I kid you not!). She therefore made him a penis out of clay and he used it to impregnate her. She then gave birth to their son, Horus.

    So…. ISIS (pharma) should just change its name to Horus. They might want to leave out the part about the artificial penis, however.

    1. Ph.Drink says:

      According to the names of the ancient gods, I’d rather go for egyptian mythology. Anyway, in europe this organisation is mostly called “IS”, because their main goal is not building an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) anymore, but rather merge the whole middle east and northern africa into a huge Islamic State (IS) – Which isn’t much of a comfortable thought to me..

      1. Daniel says:

        I’ve caught Reuters articles referring to them as Islamic State, true enough.

        Since they lose ground and increasingly resort to random terror tactics, however, I think this will be the final name for the pig-felchers.

        Islamic Terror State is ITS, and I don’t see the surviving members of Monty Python liking the false correlation, either.

  16. Plenty of other mythological gods to choose from. If they want to stick with the two-syllable, four-letter form, they can always change their name to Odin.

  17. Anonymous8 says:

    “She therefore made him a penis out of clay…”
    Ask your doctor if Cialis is right for you.

  18. steve says:

    @Ph.Drink – You’re right, my bad. ISIS of course was an Egyptian goddess, have no idea why I wrote Greek in the post.

  19. Virgil says:

    As Charlie Kilian hints at (above), if anyone knows a white supremacist/nazi leader looking for a name change, it would be fun to persuade them to take “Dr. Oz.”

  20. Anon says:

    ISIS Pharma should sue ISIS jihadist group for trademark infringement. Just as (in)effective as air strikes…

  21. Spoof says:

    The Horus story above made me remember the discussions we had as my then (Italy-based) company had to change its name following a restructuring – out of the spoofs, “GenItalia” was thrown about for laughs, but had to be dropped as we discovered it was already taken (!) – a UK-based electrical power company previously called Powergen (now E.ON) had an Italian subsidiary called…Power GenItalia ! Other than clay…

  22. Ted says:

    Hi all:

    Why not kill two birds with one stone, and go to “Alanturing Pharma?”


  23. Anon says:


    According to, the domain is available! 🙂

  24. steve says:

    @Anon – True story. Friends of ours have two daughters, an older one Talia and a younger one Jenna. They never realized what they did until we were leaving one evening and they called them to say goodbye. For whatever reason, their Mom reversed the usual order and called out “Jenna Talia”!

  25. jp says:

    A friend of mine used to work for a company back in the 80’s, Adaptive Data and Energy Systems… ADES… It wasn’t long before they became just Adaptive Data. My friend’s joke was holding out his hand and saying “Hi, I’m an engineer with ADES…”

  26. ophir says:

    Since we’re talking about names- in the Australian media this weekend, a Vietnamese-Australian man is unhappy that facebook keeps cancelling his account for some reason, and he is very annoyed, is Mr. Phuc Dat Bich.

  27. Ann O'Nymous says:

    There was a time when IRA stood for Irish Republican Army, who committed all sorts of terrorist crimes, but Individual Retirement Accounts and people called Ira seemed to cope.

    There are so many places where ISIS is used, you can’t possibly change them all. Might be easier to call *them* something different, like what they do in France (Daesh, taking the middle-eastern naming) or the UK (ISIL). Why should they win and make Isis the goddess look bad, or the lovely river (and newspaper) in Oxford, etc etc?

    Interestingly, there is a computer network routing protocol called IS-IS, and that is always referred to as eye-ess-eys-ess. I suppose it just means that computer engineers would rather be correct than poetic.

  28. Swampyankee says:

    I wonder if the journal Isis is considering a name change…


    Although there are probably teapartiers who consider science and terrorism isomorphic.

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