Wednesday, April 8, 2015

AstraZeneca Selects MicroRNA Development Candidate, Blazes Innovative Trail

When it is screaming into your face that your business model has failed you and the young competition is running circles around you, only then you might be compelled to change. 

This certainly is true for Big Pharma which have lost sight that their business is to make a buck while increasing the health of their customers instead of wasting time and energy on challenges like turning a twice-a-pill into a once daily therapy.  In its quest to optimize their business processes, it has thus thrown out of the window revolutionary, innovative technologies that just would not fit into those loved models.

Case in point, Merck writing off their multi-billion dollar investment in RNAi Therapeutics and selling it to Alnylam for $175 in largely equity and some cash. Alnylam then turned around and made at least a 10x return on the RNAi trigger stabilization chemistry by Merck in little more than a year.

This is a rough estimation of how much the Merck RNAi assets have approximately contributed to increasing Alnylam’s market cap.

AstraZeneca leading the way for Big Pharma in RNA Therapeutics

Not long ago, AstraZeneca was widely vilified for being the worst of the worst in terms of R&D productivity.  Their labs just would not produce new compounds that mattered to patients.

After a corporate shake-up, things certainly have changed on the innovation front.  AstraZeneca has fully emerged as a real risk-taker when it paid Moderna $240M in upfront monies alone for access to a comparatively early-stage mRNA Therapeutics platform in 2013. 

Before that, however, it already got active in the RNA Therapeutics in a less visible manner, notably with a much smaller, but possibly more profitable deal with microRNA Therapeutics platform company Regulus Therapeutics.

In the 2012 deal, AstraZeneca made a $25M equity investment in addition to a token $3M cash hand-out in the then privately-held Regulus Therapeutics.  In exchange, AstraZeneca received 3 microRNA target picks in the cardiovascular, metabolic, and/or oncology areas.

The best part of the deal for AstraZeneca (and the reason why I took money off the table today at what I considered an outsized reaction) was that it only has to pay $2.5M per target/candidate pick and Regulus Therapeutics has to pay for part of the work involved in generating the candidate at that.  There would, of course, be the milestones and royalties, but they should also be modest, in-line with the $2.5M payment due now. 

Oh, those were the good old times of abusive (because they could) Big Pharma biotech business development deal right on par with the steal that The Medicines Company got from Alnylam with regard to the PCSK9 target.

But still, you have got to credit AstraZeneca that unlike its brethren they not only sealed the deal, but actually advanced one of the first clinical candidates involving a fundamentally new molecular target class.  It will be interesting whether they will do the same in mRNA Therapeutics.

Anti-miR103/107 antagonism for improving liver health in diabetes

Initially, the focus  of the partnership had been on what looked like a very promising HDL-augmentation strategy by inhibiting miR33 in the liver, but this candidate has apparently taken a backseat in favor of the insulin-sensitizing strategy by inhibiting miR103/107.

It had been known that in type II diabetes, there is an inverse correlation between insulin sensitivity and miR103/107 expression.  Supporting a causal involvement, inhibiting miR103/107 in mouse models of diabetes with (unconjugated) antisense oligonucleotides increased not only insulin sensitivity, but also had positive effects on a couple of other diabetes-related parameters not only in the liver (e.g. triglyceride levels), but also body fat (adipocyte size/differentiation).

One puzzling aspect, somewhat akin to Regulus’ Alport’s program (--> miR-21), in exploiting anti-miR103/107 for pharmacological intervention is that it was initially uncertain what the target cells ought to be: adipocytes and/or hepatocytes?  A role for miR103/107 expression in adipocytes was particularly supported by the observation that its steady-state level there is higher than in the liver and the fact that single-strand phosphorothioate oligonucleotides also distribute to body fat.

However, with the adoption of GalNAc conjugation technology where most of the oligonucleotides now accumulate in hepatocytes it seems that AstraZeneca and Regulus have come to the conclusion that it is the liver that once again is calling the shots here as it usually does in diabetes.  You can deduce this from the fact that a GalNAc version was selected as the clinical candidate (AZD4076) slated to enter the clinic later this year.

Taking advantage of the observation that anti-miR103/107 has positive effects on liver triglyceride levels, the clinical development of AZD4076 will at least initially be geared towards treating non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in diabetes patients.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Time is running out for Benitec

Benitec announced today that almost 1 ½ years after filing an IND for its DNA-directed RNAi HCV candidate, it has now obtained liver biopsy data from first 3 of the 4 patients dosed so far.  Needless to say, the analysis was a resounding success confirming that the right AAV vector coding for the shRNAs against HCV was administered to the trial subjects.

Given that no details were provided on the methods, I assume that the evidence is based on PCR analysis which pretty much picks up almost any activity.

TT-034 also shined on safety with ‘no treatment-related serious adverse effects (SAEs) in any of the four patients dosed’.

To wit, the motivation behind the gene therapy ddRNAi HCV trial is to provide a one-shot cure from HCV infection.  The company, however, said that ‘the amount of shRNA produced will not result in reduction of hepatitis C viral load’.  

So while this statement almost makes it sound like they did not look for antiviral efficacy, but that there might well have been, we can safely assume that they did (standard blood test to look for HCV; plus RNA analysis from biopsies) and failed to see such.  

It is also curious that no results from PCR-based target mRNA cleavage assays were disclosed which, while still PCR, requires a certain amount of RNAi robustness to detect with confidence and would have been used to further tout trial success. 

At this point, Benitec has almost completed the first 2 of 5 planned dose cohorts.  According to my notes, the top dose is about 25x higher than dose group 2.  To get from no change in viral titer to undetectable while increasing dose by 25x seems quite optimistic to me.  And even if this highly unlikely scenario materialized, at this pace, it will be sometime in 2023-4 when it would even be considered for approval.

So please, Benitec, if you cannot see a knockdown at the next higher dose cohort, give it a rest.   

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hereditary Angioedema: A High-Value RNA Therapeutics Target Confirmed by Antibody Trial

This week, Dyax released early, but arguably impressive data from a phase Ib trial of monoclonal antibody DX-2930 for the prophylaxis of Hereditary Angioedema (HAE), a rare disease (incidence of 1 in 10-50k births) with a rapidly evolving and growing market.  The results confirm that plasma kallikrein and, by extension, its precursor prekallikrein (PKK), are highly effective and safe targets for the treatment of HAE.

Due to the expression of kallikrein and other pathway components in the liver, HAE therefore shapes up as yet another high-value indication after PCSK9/cardiovascular disease and CC5/complement disorders PNH and aHUS (à Soliris) where RNA Therapeutics will be directly pitted against monoclonal antibodies to answer the following pharmasophical question: 

What would you prefer? Turn off the gene underlying a disease with a defined, synthetic molecule harnessing an endogenous biological mechanism, or mop up the disease-mediating gene product (protein) with a gemisch of cell-derived proteins?

You may know my preference already, and indeed, a phase I study of ISIS-PKKRx by Isis Pharmaceuticals targeting PKK has just been completed and showed a 80-90% gene knockdown at 300-400mg weekly subcutaneous injections.

Disease pathway: promoters and inhibitors

HAE is caused by the genetic absence or insufficient activity of C1 esterase inhibitor (C1-INH).  This predisposes to regular, often weekly to monthly episodes of tissue swelling which when abdominal can cause severe pain and when affecting the throat is life-threatening.

Although C1-INH is involved in a few intersecting pathways such as coagulation and complement, the results by Dyax confirm the growing evidence that in the end it is all about plasma kallikrein and subsequent vasoactive bradykinin generation.  The preclinical evidence includes an elegant study by Isis Pharmaceuticals (Bhattacharjee et al 2013) where the power of RNA Therapeutics was harnessed to knockdown a number of players in the coagulation and kinin-kallikrein pathways to show that only inhibition of members of the kinin-kallikrein pathway (e.g. PKK and factor 12) could reverse the symptoms caused by C1-INH deficiency.

Importantly, human genetics show that PKK deficiency is without apparent medical adverse consequence, thus making it a drug developer’s dream.

Therefore, although HAE is caused by a protein deficiency, a therapeutic knockdown approach is conceivable due to the presence of promoters and inhibitors in the pathway of disease. This is thus similar to antithrombin and hemophilia for which Alnylam is currently advancing a promising RNAi Therapeutics clinical candidate (ALN-AT3).

Poor pharmacokinetics of approved drugs leaves large unmet need

There are a handful of drugs approved for HAE.  Most of these are approved only for the mitigation of an acute HAE attack.  They have shown modest efficacy with kallikrein inhibitor Ecallantide/KALBITOR (a small protein by Dyax) and C1-INH protein replacement therapeutic CINRYZE (by Shire) approximately halving the severity of an attack or attack frequency, respectively. 

In addition to some potentially severe side effects like anaphylaxis (KALBITOR) and infusion reactions (CINRYZE), it is the poor pharmacokinetics necessitating frequent administration that render them impractical for prophylactic use.

For example, CINRYZE, the only agent approved for prophylactic use, has to be intravenously infused twice a week (and some investors/companies moan when Tekmira's RNAi LNP products have to be infused every 3-4 weeks), and still attack rates were reduced by only about a half.  This supports that despite frequent i.v. infusions, C1-INH levels cannot be kept above the needed threshold for long enough.

Given that once set in motion, the swelling cascade is probably difficult to stop cold, it is, however, chronic prophyxis that has the prospect of bringing most benefit to patients, in addition to filling the coffers of biotech companies and their investors (prophylactic CINRYZE: $300k per year).

DX2930 shaping up to be first satisfactory treatment

In light of the above, it is apparent that new drugs for HAE should have both increased potency and be sufficiently convenient for chronic prophylactic use.  In terms of dosing frequency, this means at a minimum once-a-quarter intravenous infusions, weekly subcutaneous injections, or daily oral pills.

As a subcutaneously administered antibody, DX-2930, of course, almost naturally satisfies the dosing frequency requirement.  Moreover, when 2 doses were given 14 days apart, the attack frequency for the 300 and 400mg cohorts dropped by ~10x from baseline during the time when plasma concentrations of the antibody were deemed above the threshold needed to keep the kinin-kallikrein pathway in check (~6 weeks after 2nd dose).  13/15 patients (87%) were thus attack free from days 8-50 compared to only 3/11 (27%) in the placebo group.

Attack frequencies for the 30mg and 100mg cohorts were not reported.  This probably means that these were not successful and support the notion that whether an attack can occur or not is a rather sharp threshold effect.  Also consistent with this was the fact that the 300mg cohort numerically performed better than the 400mg cohort in this small sample size. 

[correction] Attack frequencies for the 30 and 100mg cohorts were also dramatically reduced from days 8-50 although these doses had been predicted by Dyax to yield suboptimal plasma antibody levels, possibly raising questions about the patient population chosen.

Nevertheless, DX-2930 appears overall very promising and has further validated kallikrein/PKK as targets, but larger patient numbers are required to determine the more precise efficacy benefit over existing drugs, the dose response relationshipo, and, of course, safety.

RNA Therapeutics closing in

In addition to 2nd generation RNaseH antisense compound ISIS-PKKRx, I expect a number of additional RNA Therapeutics candidates to join the HAE fray due to the attractive economics of the market and the anticipated high rate of development success.  The latter is largely a function of the validated nature of the kinin-kallikrein pathway.

Although the DX-2930 study validates kallikrein, it should be cautioned that RNA Therapeutics cannot actually target kallikrein directly, but merely its precursor, PKK, as kallikrein is generated from PKK by enzymatic processing.  This means that the therapeutic threshold in terms of percent inhibition will be shifted either to the left or right depending on the enzymology of PKK processing.

In summary, HAE and the kinin-kallikrein pathway should be one to put on your RNA Therapeutics radar, also because it may offer new avenues towards important large markets such as diabetic macular edema and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Friday, March 27, 2015

FDA Hard-Pressed to Approve Biomarin, But Not Sarepta Drug

When Biomarin late last year bought Prosensa for its experimental exon skipper drisapersen for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (for $680M plus potential milestones), it exuded confidence about the likelihood of getting approval for the 2’-O-methyl phosphorothioate antisense molecule.  This, despite of the fact that drisapersen failed in a pivotal phase III trial of 186 patients which prompted the old partner GSK to dump the drug and walk away.

Tenuous early evidence for drisapersen in earlier trials

The confidence is largely based on some supposedly successful earlier trials, especially a multi-center, randomized, blinded 53-patient phase II study which had seen improvements in the 6 minute walk distance (6MWD) at week 25, the primary endpoint of the study (Voit et al. 2014).  

This, however was statistically significant only the case in the subgroup of patients that received drisapersen continuously (à treatment in 10 out of 10 weeks with 6mg/kg), but not in patients which were treated identically, except for the small difference in skipping the last week in a 10-week treatment cycle.

At week 49, the difference with placebo failed to reach statistical significance and Prosensa had to resort to pooling both subgroups to claim victory for that time point. Similarly, drisapersen failed in obtaining statistically significant outcomes for other muscle function endpoints.

Since the mechanism of action for the DMD exon skipping candidates is to change splicing of the mutated dystrophin transcript to a form in which the reading frame is restored with recovery of partial activity, it is important to understand the relationship between drug treatment and dystrophin production.

Here, too, the evidence was less than robust.  For example, even when applying the sensitive immunofluorescence technique, no increase or even a decrease in dystrophin was seen in almost half of treated subjects.  With the less sensitive Western blot, an increase in dystrophin was seen in only a third of treated subjects (0 for placebo).

Therefore, given the failed phase III trial and the less than robust earlier evidence in favor of the drug, I struggle to understand Biomarin’s confidence in obtaining approval in 2016.   

The importance of dystrophin as a surrogate endpoint

Part of the difficulty of obtaining statistically significant results for muscle function endpoints is most likely due to the small patient size (orphan disease affecting ~1 in 3500 male births) and the consequent need to pool boys at various stages of the disease together in a given trial.  It would thus not be surprising if say obtaining 10% levels of normal or Becker-type dystrophin will translate into very meaningful clinical benefit in some, but not other boys.

This will be an even more challenging problem for the DMD subgroups that are not amenable to exon 51-based exon skipping which is targeted by drisapersen.  Probably insurmountable for first-generation chemistries like drisapersen.

Accordingly, in both the drisapersen and the competitive PMO-based eteplirsen trials, it has not been possible to correlate dystrophin production with functional outcomes.

For that reason, I strongly support the importance of establishing reliable, quantitative methods to measure dystrophin in clinical trials (there was an FDA workshop related to this last week).  Dystrophin-dependent markers may also be acceptable if they can be measured by means that do not involve taking painful muscle biopsies.  For example, serum-based microRNAs as developed by Rosetta Genomics and Marina Biotech would be of interest here.

Eteplirsen before drisapersen

I thus find it difficult to grasp the notion of rejecting the current crop of exon skippers like drisapersen or eteplirsen should they be found to produce functional dystrophin with few side effects.  After all, it is the loss of dystrophin function that causes Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and one has to wonder how generating additional dystrophin cannot be beneficial to patients, especially since the principle behind drisapersen and eteplirsen is strongly supported by human genetic evidence (à Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy).

In this world, it has got to be eteplirsen that should be first in line for regulatory approval.  This is because there is overwhelming evidence (e.g. Heemskerk et al., 2009; Sarepta's Barclays presentation March 12, 2015) that the PMO-based drug is much more potent than drisapersen which, let’s face it, is based on stone-age antisense chemistry (2’-O-methyl phosphorothioate).  Such chemistry is characterized by minimal efficacy and dose-limiting toxicities, especially renal in the case of drisapersen.

In a paper comparing 2’-O-methyl to PMO chemistry for DMD exon skipping conducted by researchers close to eteplirsen, it was found that at same doses in mice, PMO chemistry is moderately to vastly more potent than 2’-O-methyl phosphorothioate antisense compounds of a size comparable to drisapersen.  The extent of the difference depended on whether the human or mouse dystrophin were targeted and the target sequence.   Unsurprisingly given the acrimonious competition between the two parties, Sarepta has also picked up on this and continued along these lines by showing that in addition to chemistry, eteplirsen has the edge over drisapersen in terms of the targeted sequence:

Sure, there is the theoretical caveat that PMO and 2’-O-methyl scale differently from mice to humans and that what is the most potent target sequence for one chemistry does not necessarily have to be the most potent one for the other.  Intuitively, however, the differences are too big for these factors to compensate the preclinical evidence.  Also, keep in mind that in the clinic, eteplirsen is being given at 5 to almost 10-fold increased doses than drisapersen and, on top of that, is much safer and better tolerated than drisapersen.

Because of this and the competition, it is not surprising and disingenuous when Biomarin would now suddenly like to de-emphasize the importance of dystrophin as a surrogate biomarker (see last week's workshop).

Dear regulatory agency, if you approve drisapersen, you cannot deny eteplirsen.  Sure, drisapersen has been tested in more patients than eteplirsen and Sarepta has conducted a clinical trial in the worst possible manner and probably ‘embellished’/overstated some of their results, including the dystrophin evidence.  However, given that eteplirsen almost certainly generates more dystrophin than drisapersen, the highly favorable side effect profile of eteplirsen (also in comparison to drisapersen), and in light of the 6MWD issue that applies to both drug candidates, the question is whether the bureaucratic application of rules should trump scientific evidence and patient interests.

Disclosure: I am long SRPT based on the notion that Biomarin, with its orphan disease savvy, will turn out to be the biggest supporter of eteplirsen getting approval this time around.  Additionally, the agency is partly responsible for the long duration of the ongoing eteplirsen trial (close to 4 years soon) and the repeated taking of muscle biopsies, and after all this taking away hope from patients and their close ones is difficult to fathom.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Isis Pharmaceuticals and Roche/Santaris About to Settle Patent Dispute

According to court documents dated March 20, 2015, it looks like Isis and Roche, the new owner of the original defendant Santaris, are about to settle the RNaseH antisense patent infringement suit brought by Isis.  A settlement would have important implications for the future of Antisense Therapeutics. 

To wit, in 2011 Isis sued Santaris for infringing its RNaseH gapmer patents by Santaris signing on Big Pharma partners regarding RNaseH Therapeutics development.  Isis viewed this as a form of monetizing their IP and consequently sued.  If decided in Isis’ favor, the case would have been a notable departure from the long-held practice of shielding preclinical business and drug development under the safe harbor of the Research Exemption

As such, the case could have had a chilling effect on particularly small innovative biotech companies seeking to improve upon existing technologies, but by this using aspects of those technologies.  Big Pharma, after all, do not rely on partnerships to finance technology development and can thus go on using and improving the IP of other companies in their own labs impugned.
Although one could have thus taken the view that losing the case would have been in Roche’s interest in a perverted sort of way, it could also have more immediately jeopardized the value of their acquisition of Santaris (USD 250M) in addition to payable damages.  For example, Roche might have been ordered to cease any RNaseH work in the US which may be impractical for a global research organization like Roche.

Since I cannot imagine that Isis would tolerate Roche to challenge their control over RNaseH antisense gene knockdown and compete for pretty much the same targets, I expect the settlement to take the form of a significant broadening of the companies’ existing relationship around Huntington’s Disease in the form of additional target picks in exchange for a sizeable upfront fee. 

Unlike Isis’ more recent Big Pharma deals with J&J, GSK, BiogenIdec, and AstraZeneca, however, I expect this to involve less early development work by Isis as some of this would be the obvious job of the former Santaris crew.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Follow-Up to Simplified GalNAc-RNAi Trigger Discussion

Just days after the Matsuda et al. publication on simplified, non-triantennary GalNAc-RNAi triggers (the subject of the previous blog entry), another related paper from Alnylam came out (Rajeev et al. 2015). 

The Rajeev et al. publication further supports that monomeric GalNAc designs as pioneered by Arrowhead Research for the use in RNAi Therapeutics and others (e.g. Matulic-Adamic et al., 2002) before for non-RNAi Oligo Therapeutics applications allow for effective ASGPR receptor recognition and subsequent gene silencing.  

The main difference to the Matsuda paper was that instead of GalNAc-modified nucleotide monomers, non-nucleosidic GalNAc monomers were employed (note: the Matulic-Adamic et al. also explored both nucleoside- and non-nucleoside-based monomeric clustering GalNAc strategies). They, however, were also appended to the 3’ end of the passenger strand as part of the phosphoramidite-based RNA synthesis.

The use of non-nucleosidic phosphoramidite monomers further simplifies the chemistry demands and thus cost of goods of GalNAc-siRNAs.

Ironically, not only does this paper also fail to cite the seminal Arrowhead and Matulic-Adamic research, this significant effort to get away from the apparently costly triantennary design is also at odds with Alnylam’s claims in July 2014 that a patent covering bi- and triantennary conjugates designs ‘broadly cover[ed] conjugate-based delivery of RNA Therapeutics’.

Obviously, if non-bi- and triantennary designs work, then one cannot consider the issued patent to broadly cover conjugate-RNAi triggers.

It will now be interesting to see how broad the claims will be that the patent offices will grant related to the simplified designs.  The re-writing of history effort obviously is not aimed at impressing investors or enabling the field, but part of a GalNAc IP landgrab effort, ideally resulting in the issuance of claims covering any monomeric GalNAc designs.

The one thing that I would like to give Alnylam credit for is that they will put significant resources behind the technologies they consider promising- whether they invented, own, or have a license to them or not- and thus advance RNAi Therapeutics as a field.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Alnylam’s Scientifically Dishonest GalNAc Claims

Arrowhead Research, as the successor of Mirus Bio, can regard itself as the father of GalNAc-conjugated RNAi delivery.  Accordingly, in 2007, Rozema and colleagues published a seminal paper in which a multivalent polymer-conjugated GalNAc construct was utilized for the hepatocyte-specific delivery of RNAi gene silencing.

In 2015, Alnylam likes to be recognized as the inventor of GalNAc-oligonucleotide Therapeutics, with competitors like Isis Pharmaceuticals and Solstice Biologics playing the roles of copy-cats, and Arrowhead Research failing to get much mention at all.

This, however, is as noted in the introduction far from the truth, and a recent paper on ‘sequentially assembled’ GalNAc-RNAi triggers by Alnylam (Matsuda and colleagues, 2015) is yet another example for how they would like to re-write history to suit their (IP) goals.  History repeating itself you might think after all we’ve been through with SNALP LNP.

Matsuda re-discovering Rozema

Alnylam likes to laugh off Arrowhead’s GalNAc approach by claiming that you need a magic triantennary GalNAc ligand design with highly specific geometry to achieve tight ASGPR target receptor binding and subsequent cellular internalization.  By contrast, Arrowhead Research would be only using monovalent GalNAc which are known, in isolation, to be much poorer ASGPR binders.

The existence of the triantennary design obviously has not evaded Arrowhead Research.  Nevertheless, they have opted for monovalent GalNAcs most likely for their chemical simplicity and therefore reduced cost of goods.

The apparently high cost of triantennary GalNAc synthesis was acknowledged in the Matsuda paper and was said to be the motivation for testing RNAi triggers in which instead of a single triantennary ligand, monovalent GalNAcs were distributed along the RNAi triggers.

Short story short, having GalNAcs conjugated on 3 sequential nucleotides or every other nucleotide did not impact potency much compared to the triantennary 'parent' design.  In other words, the benefit from multivalent binding can be achieved by bringing monovalent GalNAcs together in space.

This, of course, is the same principle behind the Arrowhead approach, where GalNAcs are added to the free amines along a polymer/peptide (an RNAi trigger is just another polymer).  In the case of the melittin-like peptide, I have highlighted the basic amino acids to which GalNAcs are expected to be conjugated:


As you can see, towards the C-terminus (right hand side) of the peptide, there is a cluster of 4 positively charged amino acids that is expected to generate a multivalent ASGPR binder (note that 3 and 4 GalNAcs have similar binding affinities).

Shockingly, while masquerading as the inventors of GalNAc Oligonucleotide Therapeutics with statements like these…

The triantennary GalNAc ligand was subsequently used for hepatocyte-specific delivery of antisense oligonucleotides and short interfering ribonucleic neutrals (siRNNs) in mice, and anti-microRNA therapeutics in humans, confirming the value of the parent trivalent design.’

…they failed to even cite the Rozema paper and went on to say that now (i.e. for the first time) they were going to test the hypothesis that sequential monovalent GalNAcs could do the same job.  This obviously is a clear case of willful scientific dishonesty in their campaign to re-write GalNAc history.

Silence Therapeutics not even a pimple

While the Matsuda paper is geared towards claiming the sequential GalNAc assembly idea and is an affront to Arrowhead Research, it is also a reminder that Silence Therapeutics has been similarly treated with disregard in Alnylam’s ‘invention’ of ‘enhanced’ GalNAc-siRNAs. 

This is because (like Arrowhead Research actually), Alnylam, at least in essentially all RNAi trigger examples in the Matsuda paper, uses the AtuRNAi trigger design, US patents of which claim 2’-O-methylation every other base with a staggered pattern as it regards the annealed guide and passenger strands.

It therefore looks more and more like Alnylam will have to approach Silence Therapeutics for a license sometime before enhanced GalNAc-siRNAs hit the market (at least 2 by 2020 according to Alnylam’s 2020 guidance), if not ALN-TTRsc already (~2017-8).  If Alnylam will have to approach Arrowhead Research for a license regarding GalNAcs, I do not know, but given Alnylam’s noise, worth paying attention to the intricacies of the various IP estates. 
By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

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