Friday, July 11, 2008
Silence Therapeutics Wins PR Prize in RNAi Therapeutics
Claiming that “the Glover patents was arguably Alnylam’s broadest patent” may be true in the sense that the patent claimed a lot, essentially double-stranded RNAs for gene silencing in mammals, but it is far from true, as Silence would want you to believe, that it represented Alnylam’s most important (RNAi trigger) patent. As Michael King from Rodman & Renshaw rightly noted in a report on the Xconomy blog, these are Tuschl II, followed by Crooke and Kreutzer-Limmer. Actually, when you would use the search function on my blog, yesterday may have been the first mention of the Glover patent. That’s how important I have considered this patent to be.
If I had been part in the early planning stages of Alnylam, a company that had been built around Tuschl II, Glover would have been a worry due to its early date and broad claims. But it is clear that Glover did not solve the non-specific interferon response issue that had critically impeded the broad application of RNAi in man, and claiming such based on studies in exceptional model systems such as oocytes and pre-implantation embryos may be overly ambitious. Still, a good patent to have control over and a weakening of Glover after the appeals have been heard, would only strengthen Tuschl II.
Another salient example of Silence’s overly zealous PR machine is the Quark issue. I’ve always found it amusing to come across Silence Therapeutics’ lengthy press releases that typically follow any pipeline and business development progress by their PR-wise much more conservative partner Quark Biotech, making it appear as if these achievements were almost entirely to the credit of Silence Therapeutics. Not surprisingly, according to a report in February this year by David P. Hamilton on the VentureBeat Blog, this appears to be a mis-representation and Quark is not very happy with this situation. I would not be surprised if Alnylam's COO Barry Greene, on his recent visit to Israel, had not visited Quark's operations there to see if the relationship between the two companies could be strengthened.
And finally, whether it’s liposomes or lipoplexes, hey, we are also working with some kind of a fat globule and if Merck says they are safe then we want to be part of it. And who really cares and understands the difference anyway?
I understand that PR is a very important element of the business strategy particularly of a developmental-stage biotech, but it has to be handled with care and, in a financial world where free and fair reporting is lacking, if careless may cost you the credibility in the eyes of one of your most important constituencies- your investor.
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