Tekmira Pharmaceuticals ($TKMR) fired back at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY) in federal court this week with an attempt to get rid of the Massachusetts company's patent lawsuit over siRNA and lipid nanoparticle drug delivery technology.
Vancouver-based Tekmira wants the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts to toss out the lawsuit Alnylam filed in January, arguing that Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam is "seeking to assert rights that it does not have" in the patent case.
Anyone want to wager whether they'll be successful? We could be wrong, but we think this suit may produce some surprises. And in the long run, it could affect the larger drug class and companies seeking to license delivery technology to make sure those drugs are delivered effectively to their targets.
At the center of this are two things. First, we have siRNAs, a form of RNAi therapeutics that Tekmira notes "require delivery technology to be effective systematically." RNAi drugs, which turn off bad genes that cause disease, hold enormous promise, but pharmaceutical companies have struggled to find the best delivery technology to harness those drugs to their best potential. And then there's Tekmira's lipid nanoparticle technology, which it claims "represents the most widely adopted delivery technology for the systematic delivery of RNAi therapeutics." The company also notes in its court motion announcement that its technology is being legally used "in multiple clinical trials" by development partners as well as itself.
But one of Tekmira's partners is raising Alnylam's ire. Alnylam's lawsuit is, in part, over a 2010 multiyear deal that Tekmira signed with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) in which Tekmira agreed to provide potential siRNA drug candidates using its lipid nanoparticle technology. Alnylam claims that the deal violates 6 patents. Meanwhile, Tekmira has an ongoing lawsuit filed in 2011 over Alnylam's alleged patent and license agreement violations concerning its use of siRNA/lipid nanoparticle delivery tech, based on a licensing deal gone wrong between both companies. Tekmira is seeking damages in Massachusetts Superior Court that could exceed $1 billion.
We want to say it again: Watch this case closely. It could affect future RNAi drug development, and the corresponding licensing or use of drug delivery tech with which it will work.
- here's the release
- read Tekmira's legal documents in the various cases