Saturday, August 23, 2008

Disingenuous Leerink Swann Report on Value of RNAi Therapeutics

What a difference 2 years can make…

• "RNA interference could be the next breakthrough technology and we believe RNAi is well positioned at forefront of development of novel nucleic acid based therapeutics." – Leerink, 2006
• "We believe RNAi's therapeutic technology platform could yield a robust source of pipeline candidates…" – Leerink, 2006
• "Alnylam is narrowly focused upon the development of a Nobel Prize winning technology called RNA interference (RNAi) as a drug development tool that we feel is more suited for research purposes than the development of therapeutics." – Leerink, 2008

Originally, I intended this blog to be positive and reflect my enthusiasm for RNAi Therapeutics. While my enthusiasm remains intact, I also learned that as the financial stakes in the industry have increased rapidly, it has not only attracted supporters hoping that one day RNAi will improve healthcare, but also an ever-growing list of detractors hoping to capitalize on the financial misfortunes and medical failures of what would appear to be a benign biotechnology. As the drug development and approval process is as political as it is about science and medicine, and requires significant investments, I see it within the scope of this blog to defend RNAi Therapeutics from some of these misconceptions that are being planted.

This week’s report by Leerink Swann analyst Jonas Alsenas, initiating coverage of Alnylam with a ‘Sell’ rating (the only one by Leerink Swann at that!) and a 2009 price target of $14-16, is probably the most amateurish, yet apparently effective attempt to sabotage the development of RNAi Therapeutics. This report which essentially states that nucleic acid therapeutics have never been a success, and therefore never will be, and that the recent interest in RNAi is merely a reflection of the poor state of Big Pharma in general (but what about all the other technologies that do not get similar interest in this climate?), is littered with so many factual mistakes that one has to come to the conclusion that a) either is the author utterly unqualified to comment on biotechnology and RNAi and should look for another job soon, or b) that it was driven by an agenda to hurt the share price of Alnylam for the benefit of the massive short interest in the company, or maybe c) just the a revenge of somebody having missed the boat. BTW, 2008 is a bit late for a “healthcare investment bank” to initiate coverage of the leading company in the RNAi space.

But now to the most important part of today’s blog entry. In what follows, a good friend of mine, scientist, and long-time follower of the RNAi Therapeutics space has volunteered to dissect the Leerink Swann report to expose the mistakes and intentions behind it. Not only is he very well qualified to do so, he also has a uniquely refreshing writing-style that cuts through the clutter which I’m sure you are about to enjoy as much as I do.


GS said...

"BTW, 2008 is a bit late for a “healthcare investment bank” to initiate coverage of the leading company in the RNAi space."


The comments that Alnylam has struck many, fantastic deals out of desparation is idiotic. What are they supposed to do, say no to the money!?
Moreover, they'd perhaps have been hounded by the industry if they'd not given some of the single InterfeRx licenses to smaller players that they have done.

Anonymous said...


To add to the discussion, perhaps a good read is a new paper by Tekmira's people entitled "Misinterpreting the therapeutic effects of siRNA caused by immune stimulation" (Hum Gene Ther. 2008 Aug 19.):


Anonymous said...


By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

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