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Alnylam buys Merck's siRNA tech biz as Sanofi inks $700m alliance

By Dan Stanton , 13-Jan-2014
Last updated on 13-Jan-2014 at 16:40 GMT

Alnylam has both acquired Merck & Co. subsidiary Sirna therapeutics and extended an alliance with Genzyme in order to advance its small interfering RNA (siRNA) delivery programme.

In a busy weekend for Alnylam, the firm has expanded and its presence in developing RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics as genetic medicines by both adding the assets of Sirna to its business for $175m (€128m), and inking a collaboration with Genzyme that sees the Sanofi subsidiary invest $700m into the business.

In a conference call discussing the two deals, Alnylam’s President and COO Barry Greene told stakeholders the acquisition of Sirna would complement the current RNAi business.

“Merck acquired Sirna in 2006 and made significant advances in its RNAi IP and delivery technologies,” he said. Amongst the assets Alnylam has gained are siRNA-conjugate technologies, he added, which would benefit Alnylam’s own GalNAc-siRNA delivery platform.

GalNAc-siRNA conjugates are designed to achieve targeted delivery of RNAi therapeutics to hepatocytes through uptake by the asialoglycoprotein receptor. This enables subcutaneous administration and has demonstrated potent and durable gene silencing in both clinical and pre-clinical studies in Alnylam’s pipeline, according to the firm.

Late December, Alnylam published results of a preclinical study on Pharmacology of GalNAc-siRNA Conjugates which compared the platform favourably to other oligonucleotide platforms that require 100 to 1000 times greater tissue drug levels to achieve clinically relevant gene silencing.

On top of the upfront payment, Merck is eligible to receive development and milestone payments of up to $105m.

Genzyme Collaboration

The addition of this drug delivery technology was low on Alnylam’s agenda in today’ conference call, with the majority of time taken up to discuss the strategic alliance with Genzyme, built on an original 2012 commercialistaion and development agreement with the transthyretin (TTR)-familial amyloid polyneuropathy drug patisiran, currently in Phase III trials.

In this new deal - set to commence straight away and be valis until at least 2020 - Genzyme will have the rights to the drug in all territories outside North America and Western Europe along with three other products in Alnylam’s pipeline.

Furthermore, the $700m sees Genzyme own a 12% stake in the company which could increase to a maximum of 30%, according to Alnylam SVP and CBO Laurence Reid.

Genzyme CEO David Meeker and Sanofi’s CEO, Chris Viehbacher, also spoke in the call, telling investors the deal significantly expands the 2012 partnership. Alnylam’s RNAi technology and expertise complements Genzyme’s global presence and infrastructure, they said, and reinforces Genzyme’s leadership position in rare diseases whilst expanding its own pipeline.

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