Alnylam, Arrowhead join forces on RNAi tech

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has sealed a new collaboration and licensing deal with Arrowhead Research Corp., giving it access to crucial drug delivery technology once owned by Swiss drug giant Roche.

Neither side disclosed financial terms in the agreement announced Jan. 5. But the deal, in part, allows Alnylam ($ALNY) to license Arrowhead's Dynamic Polyconjugate delivery technology to develop an undisclosed drug in Alnylam's pipeline. Pasadena, CA-based Arrowhead ($ARWR) announced in October that it had acquired the tech and other RNAi delivery assets from Roche to boost its own RNAi development efforts. Three months later, Arrowhead's Roche tech acquisition is starting to pay off, it seems.

Dynamic Polyconjugate technology is designed to let "polymer-based formulation chemistry efficiently target gene silencing complexes to specific cells," and the technology has worked well in the liver in preclinical testing, the companies explain in their announcement.

The deal with Alnylam also gives Arrowhead a license to develop and commercialize a hepatitis B RNAi therapeutic—a treatment that could tap a potential global market of more than 350 million people, the company notes. And there could be some serious cash rewards for Arrowhead in the future. Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam will pay milestone payments and sales royalties resulting from the licensing deal.

RNAi drugs have great promise as a way to turn off bad genes that cause disease. But Roche is among several Big Pharma companies that have slashed their RNAi internal research budget as researchers have struggled to find viable delivery vehicles for the game-changing compounds.

Alnylam has released a new wave of early-stage data in recent weeks suggesting that it has figured out ways to effectively deliver its drugs. Alnylam and Medtronic ($MDT) announced at the end of December, for example, that they'd found a way in preclinical trials to effectively use their RNAi drug-device combo to deliver a Huntington's disease treatment to its target in the brain. Alnylam on Jan. 4 said it had generated similar success in a Phase I study showing the promise of an RNAi treatment for bad cholesterol that used second-generation lipid nanoparticles to reach its target.

- here's the release

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