Sanofi unit Genzyme in alliance with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals to develop RNAi therapeutics

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc, a leading RNAi therapeutics company, and Genzyme, a Sanofi company, today entered into formation of a transformational alliance for the development and commercialisation of RNAi (RNA interference) therapeutics as genetic medicines according to an announcement. 

The two companies had formed the new alliance to accelerate and expand the development and commercialisation of RNAi therapeutics across the world.

Under the terms of alliance Alnylam would retain product rights in North America and Western Europe, while Genzyme would obtain the right to access Alnylam's current and future genetic medicines pipeline in the rest of the world (ROW), including global product rights for certain programs.

Additionally, Genzyme becomes a major Alnylam shareholder through an upfront purchase of $700 million of newly issued stock at approximately $80/share, representing an approximately 12 per cent ownership position.

This boosts Alnylam's balance sheet significantly to over $1 billion in cash to finance an increased investment in its RNAi therapeutics pipeline. The company is expected to secure Alnylam's financial independence to ensure multiple product launches.

David Meeker, MD, president and chief executive officer of Genzyme said Genyme held a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of patients through the development and commercialisation of treatments for rare diseases, both through internal R&D and by working with valuable external collaborators.

The deal would give Sanofi's Genzyme unit increased access to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Alnylam's patisiran, a treatment for a rare life-threatening disease that attacks the nervous system.

It would also get the rights to develop and market three other drugs, Paris-based Sanofi said in a statement today. The company added, Sanofi would also get an option on all of Alnylam's drugs for rare genetic diseases.

Sanofi's investments in rare diseases would rise significantly with the deal, built around its $20.1 billion acquisition of Genzyme in 2011. The market for such treatments is projected to  grow at twice the pace of the pharmaceutical industry to $127 billion by 2018 from $83 billion in 2012, according to Evaluate Ltd, a London-based market-research company.

Alnylam, with no approved products and revenue of only $67 million in 2012, may notch up sales of $1.1 billion by 2020, according to the average of two analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The company's products act to interfere with ribonucleic acid, or RNA. They switch off the genes responsible for over-producing proteins that cause certain diseases.