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.