How Big a Deal is Roche and Alnylam’s Big Deal?
The news wires are buzzing with today’s announcement of a deal between Alnylam and Roche that will give Roche nonexclusive access to Alnylam’s technology for developing RNAi-based therapeutics. The deal involves cash, equity, and royalties that could total over $1billion—a figure that some analysts who talked to us and other media outlets said seemed high. Particularly coming on the heels of last week’s news about a similar, albeit smaller, deal between AstraZeneca and Silence Therapeutics, the Alnylam/Roche agreement raises a host of questions. Among them: Are all the zeros attached to these deals merely symptomatic of the hype surrounding RNAi, or vindication of the field’s potential? If this and other equity deals are precursors to potential acquisitions (Novartis already has a 14% stake in Alnylam), is RNAi a mature enough technology to survive within the Big Pharma R&D apparatus? Or has Alnylam found a way to take advantage of the pharmaceutical industry’s pressing need for new technologies while maintaining its independence? In any case, what’s the implication of Novartis and rival Roche now sharing control of almost a fifth of Alnylam’s stock?