Alnylam Slaps Dicerna With Trade Secret Lawsuit

Published: Jun 11, 2015

Alnylam Slaps Dicerna With Trade Secret Lawsuit
June 11, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Alnylam Pharmaceuticals this week charged Dicerna Pharmaceuticals with a trade secret misappropriation in a lawsuit regarding the company’s GalNAc conjugate technology.

The lawsuit was filed June 10 in the Superior Court of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In its complaint, Alnylam said beginning in 2013 Dicerna attempted to acquire the “assets, research and development advances and intellectual property” of RNAi therapeutics developed by Sirna Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Merck & Co. .

In 2014 Alnylam acquired Sirna’s assets for $175 million in upfront payments and possible $105 million in milestone payments. The company alleges Dicerna, who unsuccessfully competed for the acquisition of Sirna, “resorted to other means to obtain the confidential information and trade secrets” to “establish itself as a viable competitor to scientific innovators such as Alnylam in the field of siRNA therapies and delivery technologies.”

Alnylam has led the discovery and development of GalNAc conjugate technology for delivery of RNA therapeutics, including through technology we obtained from our $175 million Sirna Therapeutics acquisition in our 2014 transaction with Merck," Barry Greene, president of Alnylam, said in a statement.

"We deeply value and respect intellectual property rights, and must take appropriate steps to protect our trade secrets and confidential information - in addition to those of our licensed partners - when we believe they have been misappropriated," he said. "As our efforts to obtain satisfactory assurances and cooperation from Dicerna have been unsuccessful, we unfortunately need to seek relief in the courts to protect and enforce our rights."

GalNAc-siRNA conjugates are designed to achieve targeted delivery of RNAi (RNA interference) therapeutics to hepatocytes through uptake by the asialoglycoprotein receptor. RNAi is a natural process of gene silencing that occurs in organisms ranging from plants to mammals.

Alnylam is focused on therapies that use the biological process of RNAi occurring in cells to create a new class of medicines, known as RNAi therapeutics.

Dicerna objected to Alnylam’s lawsuit. The company said the complaint was “meritless and that Alnylam precipitously filed its lawsuit based on assumptions rather than facts.” The company said it communicated facts “demonstrating that many of the insinuations in the Alnylam complaint are simply false, and others are unfounded speculation.”

"Dicerna’s technology is built firmly on its own research and innovation,” Douglas Fambrough, chief executive officer of Dicerna, said in a statement. “Dicerna focuses on serious, life-threatening diseases involving the liver and genetically defined cancers for which patients have few or no treatment options available."

"Our RNAi-based therapeutics utilize our proprietary RNAi technologies, and not prior Merck research. We stand behind these technologies, and the company's record and practices for respecting IP rights, in order to develop and deliver life-changing therapies as efficiently as possible.”

Dicerna said earlier this year Alnylam noted it was “concerned about unspecified aspects of Dicerna’s GalNAc delivery technologies.”

However, Dicerna said it conducted a thorough investigation and confirmed there was no use of Merck/Alnylam confidential information. Dicerna said it notified Alnylam of its finding, but that company chose to not note that in its complaint filed with the courts.

It was unspecified when the complaint would be heard by a judge.

Alnylam’s stock was trading at $130.57 per share, up from the opening price of $129.98.

Dicerna’s stock was down slightly this morning, trading at $15.67 per share.

When Will Pfizer's Breakup Happen?
Speculation that the revamping of Pfizer Inc. ’s internal business structure could happen as soon as this year has biotech wondering just when this Big Pharma company could see changes.

Last week an analyst with J.P. Morgan said he thinks there will be a much faster timeline than most of Wall Street had predicted for Pfizer’s stated mission to refocus its efforts on new medicines.

Pfizer initially announced in 2012 that it would be shedding units that were non-essential to that goal. It then promptly sold its nutrition silo to Nestle for $11.85 billion, which was rapidly accompanied by a public spin-off of its animal health business for $2.2 billion.

“While a Pfizer break-up would likely be a 2017 event, we see potential catalysts in 2015-2016," said Chris Schott, an analyst at J.P. Morgan. "Three years of audited financial statements (2014-2016) are required before any part of Pfizer can be spun off, and we also see 2017 as an attractive time for action as investors see Pfizer’s innovative pipeline clearly contributing to growth and the established business having transitioned to a more stable profile."

BioSpace wants to know what you think: Will Pfizer be a changed company by the end of 2015?

Back to news