More Government Dollars for Alnylam Biodefense Initiative

8/9/07

Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) announced today that it has been awarded a three-year, $39 million contract with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to develop an RNAi-based treatment for infection with hemorrhagic fever viruses such as those that cause Ebola and Marburg disease. The contract brings the amount of money Alnylam has raised via federal contracts for its biodefense initiative to a total of more than $63 million, according to a company press release.

The latest contract is part of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative (TMTI), which awarded its first contracts last year. Alnylam appears to be the only New England awardee for 2007; last year’s contract recipients included Worcester, MA-based Microbiotix, which was granted $5 million to develop broad-spectrum antibacterial agents, and the Harvard School of Public Health, which got a $2.7 million award for a genomic analysis of the immune response to pathogens.

The TMTI is an unusual $1.5 billion Defense Department effort to develop medical countermeasures against biological weapons by integrating product development from drug discovery through clinical trials. We can’t find much about it on the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s website. But according to an interesting description of the initiative published in a letter to the magazine Microbe in May, its goal is to get at least two drugs into the FDA-approval process within five years.

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