Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY) hit a flu vaccine development milestone, receiving a $3.2 million payment from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK). Yet this income was't tied to one of Alnylam's own RNA-interference (RNAi) drugs.
The two companies, which have been collaborating since the fourth quarter of 2011, are working on the use of Alnylam's VaxiRNA technology for the production of GSK's influenza vaccine. The technology uses siRNA to quiet certain genes that stymie vaccine production.
London-based GSK, one of the world's top vaccine makers, is handing over research funding and milestone payments to Alnylam. In return, GSK received an option for VaxiRNA applications for two other vaccines.
"Alnylam's VaxiRNA platform uses RNAi technology to increase virus titers in the production of vaccine products," said Laurence Reid, senior vice president and chief business officer for Alnylam, via email to FierceVaccines. "It applies siRNA for the silencing of specific genes that limit or prevent efficient manufacturing of vaccine antigens, including those produced in cell culture and eggs. The VaxiRNA platform stems from Alnylam's biotherapeutics efforts, where RNAi technology has been applied to improve the manufacturing of biotherapeutic products, such as recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies."
The platform is an example of a technology that can improve the manufacture of vaccine products, Reid said. Importantly for Alnylam, of course, the GSK deal brings in revenue amid the biotech's expensive push to develop gene-silencing drugs.
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