Alnylam Eyes RNAi for Manufacturing Drugs

11/12/09

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, MA-based developer of RNA-interference drugs, said today that it sees a new business opportunity in using its gene-silencing technology to increase the output of biomanufacturing processes. The company, which has already successfully licensed its RNAi technology for drugs, is looking to make additional money from its science by licensing it for manufacturing many types of biotech drugs.

The company (NASDAQ:ALNY) is presenting data today at its R&D day in New York that support the use of RNAi to silence certain genes in Chinese hamster ovary cells, which are used in biomanufacturing. Alnylam’s data show that the RNAi technology improved the viability of the cells by 40 to 60 percent, compared with untreated cells. The firm used RNAi to switch off certain genes that control metabolism in the cells, as well as genes involved in a cellular self-destruct mechanism.

An internal group at the company called Alnylam Biotherapeutics is advancing the application of RNAi technology in biomanufacturing. The firm, which plans to retain ownership of this use of the technology, says it could improve the production of existing biotech drugs, new biologics, and copies of biological treatments, known as “biosimilars” or “biogenerics.”

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