Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Splitsville for Alnylam and Merck

Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Merck had a big-money partnership -- up to $120 million in milestone payments.

As of today, it's done with, and Alnylam CEO doesn't seem too depressed, saying the split is in Alnylam's best interests.

What do you think is happening here? Is it entirely related to Merck's acquisition of Sirna Therapeutics, an Alnylam rival that is also working on RNA interference? (Merck bought Sirna for $1.1 billion last November.) IE, why does Merck need Alnylam as a partner if they now own Sirna?

Here's an old description of the Alnylam/Merck collaboration from the Alnylam Web site (since removed):

    Alnylam and Merck are in a collaboration to develop RNAi therapeutics across a potentially broad spectrum of disease areas. Originally forged in 2003, the companies amended the terms of the collaboration in 2006 to provide Merck with a more active role in the development of RNAi therapeutic products, and Alnylam with an opportunity to receive accelerated R&D funding and the potential for significant milestones and royalty payments on commercialized products resulting from the collaborations.


    Alnylam and Merck have initiated a pre-clinical program to develop RNAi therapeutics for spinal cord injury. The program is focused on the Nogo pathway, which plays a key role in preventing regeneration of nerves after injury, such as spinal cord injuries. An RNAi therapeutic that inhibits this pathway could potentially promote neuronal cell regeneration and reduce or prevent paralysis caused by such injuries.

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