Alnylam Jumps on $1B RNAi Pact With Vir Biotechnology


Alnylam John Maraganore

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and California-based startup Vir Biotechnology inked a deal worth up to $1 billion for the development and marketing of RNAi therapies aimed at treating infectious diseases including chronic hepatitis B (HBV).

The two companies will advance Alnylam’s HBV program and also collaborate on the development of up to four additional RNAi treatments for other infectious diseases with high unmet needs. Under terms of the agreement, Alnylam will receive an upfront payment for an undisclosed amount in cash and shares of Vir stock. 

Alnylam Chief Executive Officer John Maraganore called the deal with Vir another step to bringing RNAi therapeutics to patients with inadequate options. 

“Partnering with the exceptional, experienced team at Vir to advance investigational RNAi therapeutics in infectious diseases will expedite the development path for these medicines, while enabling Alnylam to maintain operational focus on our robust pipeline of later-stage programs,” Maraganore said in a statement. “We believe the innovative structure of this deal, including the right for Alnylam to opt into a profit-sharing arrangement prior to the start of Phase 3 for HBV, gives us both strategic flexibility in our committed spend and retention of significant product value.” 

Alnylam is developing ALN-HBV for the treatment of chronic HBV infection. A Phase I/II clinical trial of ALN-HBV was initiated in July 2016. The Boston-based company will discontinue further development of this investigational compound. Instead, Alnylam said it will advance a new development candidate, ALN-HBV02, which uses the company’s Enhanced Stabilization Chemistry-Plus (ESC+) GalNAc conjugate technology.

As part of the agreement, Alnylam will lead ALN-HBV02 to IND filing, with Vir then progressing ALN-HBV02 through human proof of concept. Both companies will provide financing for the program through early development. Vir will provide funding for Phase II development. Alnylam retains the right to opt into a profit-sharing arrangement prior to the start of Phase III. 

For Vir, helmed by former Biogen CEO George Scangos, this is the second potential billion dollar deal struck today. The company also inked an agreement worth up to $1 billion with Visterra, Inc. to develop therapies for infectious diseases using that company’s Hierotope platform. Regarding the Alnylam agreement, Scangos called the collaboration “a key step forward toward our goal of leveraging discovery and development to better control, or even cure, infectious diseases, thereby benefitting those patients most in need around the world.”

Shares of Alnylam are down slightly this morning, trading at $117.39 as of 10:43 a.m. 

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