Alnylam Chief Foresees Another Gene-Silencing Spin-Off, and More News Tidbits from Boston’s MassBio Investors Forum

10/7/09

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) had more than $470 million in the bank as of the last official count at the end of June, so it struck me as odd that the Cambridge, MA-based developer of gene-silencing drugs was a presenter along with dozens of cash-starved biotech startups at the MassBio Investors Forum in Boston yesterday. Alnylam and its poorer biotech counterparts made some interesting buzz.

While Alnylam is richer than the vast majority of biotech firms, the company still appears to have a thirst for new alliances. The firm, which is a leading developer of RNA-interference (RNAi) drugs, already counts Roche, Novartis, Takeda, and Medtronic among its bevy of collaborators. And Barry Greene, president and chief operating officer of Alnylam, told the folks at MassBio to expect more major alliances to surface in the coming months—the company told investors in January that it aimed to close at least two more major new alliances in 2009.

Alnylam dropped some hints yesterday about its plans to spin off another startup akin to Carlsbad, CA-based Regulus Therapeutics, which was founded by Alnylam and Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ISIS) as a joint venture for developing microRNA drugs in 2007. Alnylam CEO John Maraganore told Xconomy back in February about a number of other technologies inside Alnylam with spinoff potential, like methods for enhancing stem cells for regenerative medicines, or immune-system compounds called adjuvants, that can boost the potency of vaccines.

Greene said there could be another “Regulus-like” deal in the works at Alnylam. When I pressed him for details after his presentation, he demurred yet did reiterate that his company, which is already pursuing the development of biological drugs that mute disease genes, has an interest in doing more in the vaccine and stem cell fields. While this mysterious “Regulus-like” deal now exists as speculation, it could be interesting to see how Alnylam finds new ways to reap value from its existing portfolio of drug candidates or RNAi patents. Such joint ventures enable companies to explore new areas without taking on all the financial risks associated with drug development on their own. For sure, Greene’s comments will likely stir up gossip about potential deals in the works at Alnylam.

Besides Alnylam, other Boston-area life sciences firms that made pitches at MassBio appeared to be making progress. Here are several tidbits that I gathered about EyeGate Pharma, Cequent Pharmaceuticals, and other firms during my travels at the annual investor conference:

—Stephen From, CEO of Waltham, MA-based EyeGate Pharma, said his existing venture investors have committed … Next Page »

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