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Alnylam Looks to Spinoffs To Unleash RNAi Technologies for Stem Cells, Vaccines

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via a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline potentially worth more than $600 million. Suddenly, Alnylam’s 49 percent stake in the company looked quite a bit more valuable—and that’s gotten Alnylam thinking about spinning off other companies.

That said, Alnylam wants to make sure people don’t see it as a big incubator firm. “We’re not venture capitalists, we’re not in the business of starting companies to start companies. As we make advances in applications that are collateral assets and discoveries from our core, they might become new opportunities,” Maraganore says.

One of the interesting technologies that may lend itself to a spinoff is RNA activation, which I wrote about last September. This technique essentially does the opposite of RNAi, by turning on a gene that plays an important role in keeping a person healthy, Maraganore says. The company’s intellectual property might also veer off in other directions, like by enhancing stem cells for regenerative medicines, or by making novel immune-system boosting compounds called adjuvants for vaccines. Gene silencing techniques like Alnylam’s could be used to help improve the growth rate and hardiness of the Chinese hamster ovary cells that are a standard, and notoriously fickle, host organism for biotech drug manufacturing.

Although Maraganore didn’t promise that each of these ideas will lead to a new company, he made it sound like he’s at least thinking hard about the spin-off model as one way to build value in the programs.

“We learned a lot from the Regulus launch in a positive way, and we’ve learned how to use that model for other aspects of our technology. There will be some very creative things people will see throughout the year that will emerge from those initiatives. It’s going to be a banner year in terms of the partnerships we can do.”

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