Alnylam CEO John Maraganore On Corporate Near-Termism, and Restoring Faith in RNAi

12/6/10Follow @xconomy

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had about 25 to 30 people in Alnylam who were doing research for Novartis. In the case of Roche, we had zero people within the company doing any work for Roche. The cuts we made following the Novartis deal reflected the transition in the business from having a service-based resource allocation to one that would now be exclusively focused on higher value activities.

X: I suppose you are putting together your budgets and cash guidance for next year. Can we get a preview of how that looks for you guys?

JM: We will end the year with at least $325 million in cash, and probably will end well north of that. We’re in a really good cash position, we still have one of the best balance sheets in the U.S. biotech industry. It’s pretty unique for a company that doesn’t have a marketed product. We haven’t given guidance yet on what the end of 2011 financial numbers will be, but we’ll be in a good position at the end of 2011. And we’re going to be in a good position at the end of 2012 and beyond. We’re feeling really good about our ability to make the right investments as a company, in terms of value creation for our shareholders. It’s largely driven by our clinical pipeline, and clinical investments. We haven’t raised money as a company since 2006, and we’re one of the very few if not the only company that can say that.

X: What about these clinical trial catalysts? What does the calendar look like, in terms of when we’ll see data on RSV or liver cancer or TTR amyloidosis? I suppose those are the three value drivers you are counting on, right?

JM: Yes. Obviously this year has been a big one for our liver cancer program. We reported on it at ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) and more recently at a symposium in New York. We’ll probably next report at ASCO in 2011, although we may choose to report data before that. We started the TTR program in June of this year, and will probably generate data people will hear about next year. We’ll be starting our PCSK9 program in the first half of next year. There will be data coming out of that program. And our RSV program is actively accruing, and it’s a double-blind study. We haven’t given guidance on when we’ll report data on that. We are entering RSV season in the northern hemisphere. So there’s a lot going on. There will a second generation TTR program, and through Regulus there’s the mir-122 program for hepatitis C infection. Those are two possible candidates for (clinical trials) next year. So it’s a sizable and growing pipeline. A lot of data will be reported in increasingly high frequency, and we think it will open up some eyes.

X: Has there been something I missed in the field of RNAi, like a disappointment or a fundamental blowup in a clinical trial somewhere else that might affect you guys?

JM: Remarkably, no. That itself is great news. That’s not to say there won’t be clinical studies like that. Hopefully there aren’t any, but you have to be realistic. But there are 14 programs now … Next Page »

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  • Geek

    RNAi stock have been sold down mercilessly since the decision by Roche. Alnylam may be a bargain but look at Australia’s Benitec BLT (ASX). It has very valuable IP, possibly more so than Alnylam, and is trading at a market cap of $AUD12 million. These stocks are being manipulated so that big pharma can take them over for a pittance, and nothing is ever done to stop them. People are leaving in droves because they can’t compete with the big boys who have enough money and time to drive the prices down to such ridiculous levels that the small players just give up. It’s a joke.

  • Wes

    History about to repeat itself? When Benitec/CSIRO first got the Graham patent allowed (but not formally awarded) the sp went from 2c to 30c, and sat there for about 6 months. Then the offical certificate came out and it went to $1.30. Months later Nucleonics successfully got a re-exam started, which undermined the sp for the next 6 years down to it’s current 2.5c.

    Have a look at the 10 year chart for BLT at asx.com.au and compare against dates of BLT news releases at benitec.com.au.

    Benitec need to work clear of some dilutionary funding before sp can move, but once they achieve this traction will likely return