Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Alnylam Progresses RSV RNAi Program into Phase II Clinical Studies

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, arguably the leading company in RNAi Therapeutics, today announced the start of phase II clinical studies for ALN-RSV01, an siRNA for the treatment of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infection. RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the US and a significant risk factor for the immune-compromised and elderly. Although a neutralising antibody exist for the prevention of RSV infection, no drug has been shown so far to be effective in the treatment of RSV infection.

Today marks another milestone in the rapid, but at the same time circumspect development of ALN-RSV01 from the test tube to the clinic. It demonstrates just how quickly it is possible to develop RNAi as antivirals. This is because the viral sequence alone allows us to start designing and testing siRNAs for their antiviral activity. It is not surprising therefore that the NIH and Department of Defense is interested in fostering this technology for the fight against bioterrorism and pandemic flu. Indeed, Alnylam may leverage their experience in RSV and translate it into their pandemic flu program for which an IND is planned by the end of the year. Another company, Nastech, of Bothell, Washington, is also in the discovery phase of an RNAi therapeutic for pandemic flu, as was Sirna Therapeutics before their acquisition by Merck.

Alnylam’s first phase II study is an experimental challenge study in which volunteers are nasally infected with an attenuated strain of RSV and ALN-RSV01 given either before or after infection. The goal of this randomised 90 patient double-blind, placebo controlled study is to first establish safety, but more importantly antiviral efficacy as measured by incidence of infection, viral titer, and symptomatic differences. If successful, this would constitute human proof-of-concept of a human RNAi Therapeutic and represent another major de-risking event on the path to establishing RNAi as a whole new platform for innovative drugs.

PS: In another RNAi pipeline event, Intradigm, an RNAi delivery company based in Palo Alto, California, announced today that they have officially selected ICS-283 as a development program for cancer. ICS-283 is designed to target cancer angiogenesis and phase I studies are expected to start in 2008.

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