Merck updates collaborations with Alnylam

Jeffrey Bouley
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—September 19, 2007—After four years of collaboration, Alnylam announced it had terminated its research agreement with Merck. Offering little explanation for the decision, Alnylam President and CEO Dr. John Maraganore simply stated it was in the company's best interests. The termination will see Alnylam rescind all grants to its IP related to current and future Merck programs, including those codeveloped by the two companies.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—RNAi ther­apeutics company Alnylam Pharmaceuticals stands to gain accelerated research and devel­opment funding and earn mile­stone payments in excess of $120 million following an amendment to its collaboration agreements with Merck, which go back to September 2003.
The move is meant to achieve several goals, according to Dr. Stephen Friend, executive VP of Merck Research Laboratories, one goal being to consolidate the two companies' efforts into a single ongoing collaboration. Under the changes, the compa­nies now will focus on nine new therapeutic targets that remain to be nominated by Merck. Also under the revised terms, Merck may participate at an earlier stage in the research and devel­opment of all nine targets areas. Under the previous agreement, Merck nominated new targets and initial development was handled by Alnylam.
"We have seen significant prog­ress in the RNAi field over the past three years and are truly excited by the opportunity to play a continued role in the development of this new class of drugs," says Friend.
Alnylam is allowed to select three of the nine new programs as joint development programs, and Merck will co-fund and participate in them from the outset. This will provide Alnylam with accelerated R&D funding for its efforts, notes Dr. John Maraganore, president and CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. Previously, the agreement was structured such that Merck would not begin co-funding efforts until after the completion of defined pre­clinical work.
In the United States, Alnylam will have the right to co-promote RNAi therapeutic products devel­oped in the three programs that it chooses as joint development pro­grams. Merck will assume prima­ry responsibility for the remaining six programs and Alnylam is eligi­ble to receive milestone payments and royalties on RNAi therapeutic products developed and commer­cialized by Merck.
The compa­nies anticipate that the successful development and approval of just three RNAi therapeutic products developed solely by Merck on a worldwide basis would likely bring more than $120 million into Alnylam's coffers.

Jeffrey Bouley

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