You have all seen the obituaries on RNAi Therapeutics. Following the terminations of in-house RNAi Therapeutics efforts by Roche, Pfizer, and Novartis (oh wait, Novartis actually hasn’t stopped developing RNAi Therapeutics, but with 31 targets has more than enough on its plate- minor detail), major news outlets have finally pronounced: RNAi Therapeutics is Dead!
Meanwhile, in the 3-4 years since Roche made its famous commitment, the field has made major progress in reaching the market with Tekmira’s liposomal delivery technology rapidly generating a wealth of important clinical data and showing unprecedented efficacy in the most challenging of animal models for Ebola, Silence Therapeutics’ lipoplex delivery technology pleasantly surprising in terms of its safety and first signs of efficacy, a Chinese group reporting success with RNAi Cosmetics in Wo-Man, and Rosetta Genomics having brought to market a microRNA Diagnostic for Cancer of Unknown Primary that, under normal circumstances, that is proper quality control and marketing, should be a commercial success story. Not far behind, RXi Pharmaceuticals is reporting impressive data for their self-delivering rxRNAs in dermal applications.
By any rational standard of scientific progress, this is more than satisfactory, yet investors and the industry itself it seems have become infected by the Big Pharma RNAi Therapeutics mood swings. Actually, Big Pharma should be in the best position to sweep up RNAi assets as pure-play companies experience financial difficulties. However, it seems that it took less guts for Merck to buy Sirna Therapeutics for more than a Billion US dollars than for Big Pharma today to spend about 10 times less to acquire the two companies that have developed the clinically most advanced systemic RNAi delivery technologies: Tekmira and Silence.
Unfortunately, for RNAi Therapeutics to be able to maintain that pace of progress, it depends on (financial) supporters with deep pockets or, ironically, a spark that will ignite another round of RNAi Therapeutics exuberance. Steady scientific progress superimposed by stone-age fear and greed.