Alnylam's Human Resources Boss Provides Hiring Strategy, Planning to Hire 1,500 By 2020

Published: Dec 11, 2015

Alnylam's Human Resources Boss Provides Hiring Strategy, Planning to Hire 1,500 By 2020
December 9, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Two days ahead of its planned R&D Day webcast Cambridge, Mass.-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals 's chief human resources officer, Karen Anderson, discusses her approach to finding staff for the company.

In November, Alnylam hosted a job fair that targeted employees of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen, Inc. , which recently indicated it was laying off 400 people.

“We’re hoping to hire at least 20 to 30 folks out of that group,” Anderson told The Boston Globe. The trick—as it is for any company, presumably—is to find the right person, not only who have the skills and experience for the job, but who can fit into the individual company’s corporate culture.

Anderson and Alnylam want to find people who are interdisciplinary, inquiring, more entrepreneurial risk-takers. “I can find 200 people,” Anderson said. “The question is, ‘Can I find 200 people who believe in the same philosophy as we do?’ This is an organization that has a certain intensity. No question is a dumb question in this environment. People will interrupt each other without apology….I don’t want the same people that Pfizer wants. I need people who are ready for a risk.”

Alnylam currently employs about 335 people, with 280 at its Kendall Square, Cambridge location. It expects to hire another 215 by the end of 2016, and have the company’s headcount up to 1,800 by 2020.

This enthusiastic hiring is likely based on a number of expected drug approvals. On Nov. 11, Alnylam announced that, working with The Medicines Company , it had positive results from a Phase I clinical trial of ALN-PCSsc, an investigational RNAi therapeutic that targets PCSK9, a protein regulator of LDL receptor metabolism—essentially, the drug appears to be very effective in treating high cholesterol.

Of particular interest about this drug is that it’s only given twice a year. Although it would be going head-to-head with the current statin treatments, it would also be in competition with two new PCSK9 inhibitors recently launched by Amgen , Repatha and Praluent. Repatha is dosed once a month and Praluent is dosed twice a month. All three drugs block PCSK9 proteins, they do it differently. Alnylam’s drug blocks the creation of PCSK9 in the liver using RNA interference. Amgen’s drugs block the PCSK9 from acting in the blood.

Also, ALN-PCSsc in trials appears to be more effective than Repatha and Praluent. “These data show that significant and clamped lowering of LDL is achieved for over 180 days,” Alnylam’s executive vice president of research and development, and chief medical officer, Akshay Valshnaw, said in a statement.

If approved, Alnylam’s drug would face the same problem Praluent and Repatha face—price. Amgen’s drugs costs about $14,000 each year. That’s for anywhere from 12 to 24 pills, depending on which drug. The current standard of care for cholesterol is statins, which are typically priced about $50 per month—$600 per year. Insurance companies are skeptical.

Alnylam also has ALN-HBV in the pipeline for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and ALN-HDV for the treatment of hepatitis D. It also has investigational drugs for the treatment of transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis (ATTRC) in Phase III clinical trials, and ALN-AT3, a drug for hemophilia and rare bleeding disorders, in Phase I trials.

The company’s R&D Day will update investors regarding the company’s pipeline, and will include Guy Young, director of Hemostasis & Thrombosis Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Robert Desnick, Dean for Genetic & Genomic Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Anita Hill, Consultant Haematologist for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, UK at the University of Leeds.

Meanwhile, the company is looking for highly skilled, inquisitive, risk-taking people that don’t mind asking questions and interrupting each other. Hard to say if that would be a good interview strategy.

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