Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has found a partner willing to help it go up against against some formidable competitors with a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Alnylam (NASDAQ: ALNY) said today that The Medicines Company of Parsippany, NJ, has agreed to take an exclusive global license to Alnylam’s RNA interference drug candidates that block PCSK9, a promising new molecular target for cardiovascular disease. The Medicines Co. (NASDAQ: MDCO) agreed to pay Alnylam $25 million upfront, another $180 million in potential milestone payments, and a double-digit percentage royalty on future sales of the ALN-PCS program. Alnylam has been developing an intravenous form, and a version that can be injected just under the skin. Under the deal, Alnylam will continue to develop the program through preclinical and early clinical trials over the next one to two years, while Medicines Company is responsible for middle- and late-stage trials and commercialization.
The competition to develop PCSK9-blockers has heated up over the past year, as Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) and a partnership of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and Sanofi have released some promising data from clinical trials at medical meetings. Those companies are putting massive resources behind those programs, in the hope that their targeted antibody drugs will be the next big thing in cardiovascular disease after big-selling statin drugs like Pfizer’s atorvastatin (Lipitor) have lost patent protection from generics. Alnylam’s drug program is different in that it seeks to block PCSK9 through a different molecular mechanism. But, without any marketed products of its own, it doesn’t have near the resources that those companies are pouring into their clinical development programs.
Medicines Company is known for its focus on marketing drugs to hospitals for acute care situations. One of them is bivalirudin (Angiomax), an anti-clotting agent used in hospitals for patients undergoing various heart procedures. It is also developing a drug for raising the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or so-called “good” cholesterol, which might complement the PCSK9 program, Medicines Co. CEO Clive Meanwell said in a statement.
“This new alliance unites two organizations with a shared culture and commitment to innovation. In my view and past experience, there could be no stronger partner for our ALN-PCS program than The Medicines Company, which has demonstrated industry-wide leadership in the advancement of cardiovascular medicines to patients and remarkable success in its strategy of in-licensing, developing, and commercializing breakthrough products,” said John Maraganore, Alnylam’s CEO, in a statement.