Monday, April 30, 2012

A New Order: Tekmira Senior, Alnylam Junior

There have been a few developments supporting that Tekmira’s campaign to re-gain control over its technology from Alnylam and be recognized for its scientific accomplishments is as strong as ever (see 'Tekmira Tells Alnylam 'Enough is Enough''). 

Notably, based on LinkedIn entries, it appears as if key personnel in Alnylam’s RNAi delivery group got the axe during the latest round of lay-offs at the company.  Among those is Mark Tracy, former President of the Controlled Release Society and who according to LinkedIn 

'Built and led a multi-national RNAi delivery research and development alliance of industry and academic partners that enabled human clinical proof of concept for RNAi and a growing pipeline of clinical products. Matrixed-managed an international multi-department, mutli-organizational team of over 50 FTE. Directed technology assessment and due diligence activities. Headed delivery project and alliance management and business and financial planning.'

which would arguably make him one of the central players in Alnylam's relationship with Tekmira (note the emphasis on 'multi-national/international'). This should further fuel takeover speculations as in a merger there certainly wouldn’t be room left for liposomal delivery research organizations at both Tekmira and Alnylam.  It would further be consistent with the recent $85M dollar fund-raising by Alnylam that followed the take-over script.

Perhaps symbolizing the shifting legal fortunes of the companies, a Court Order has just gone out declaring Tekmira (Protiva) the Senior Party, and Alnylam the Junior Party in the ALN-VSP02 Interference.  As you will remember, the Interference, an intriguing side-show to the Alnylam-Tekmira conflict, was declared by the USPTO when it found that Alnylam’s issued ALN-VSP patent (US 7718629) and a patent application by Tekmira were too close in nature for them to co-exist. The goal of the Interference now is to determine who first invented the subject matter that both patent (applications) are claiming.  

Based on important decisions on Motions by the companies in March, decisions which will set the tone for the rest of the proceedings, it already looked like Alnylam’s case stood on very weak grounds. Still, with Alnylam, as the patent holder, being considered the 'Senior Party', and Tekmira as the competing patent applicant being considered the ‘Junior Party’, Tekmira faced certain procedural disadvantages, including burden of proof with regard to claiming temporal priority in the upcoming phase of the Interference. 

However, in what must be a very satisfying turn of events for Tekmira, the judge now has agreed with the small Vancouver-based company's request that it actually should be the Senior Party, and widely recognized RNAi behemoth Alnylam only the Junior Party:

This not only makes it more likely that Alnylam will lose control over the liver cancer drug candidate at stake, but it is highly symbolic for what could unfold over the next 6 months or so leading up to their $1B day in court.  If it comes to that, the very existence of Alnylam will be in question.   Another question is whether the music will still be playing then.


Anonymous said...

Dirk, I love it. Long TKMR. Thanks for your post.

Anonymous said...

Dirk, LinkedIn will reveal yet more about changes in the Alnylam senior line up if inspected closely.

Anonymous said...

Apparently new 15K floor space is to occupy legal department and excess ego storage!

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to the company's plans for their newly leased floor space.

For those outside of/unfamiliar with the Boston biotech landscape, West Cambridge Industrial Park has been the home to many start-up and now extinct biotechs. Alnylam's space is close to the West Cambridge Alewife Pfizer (nee Wyeth nee Gentics Institute) facility but a whole lot shabbier.

Alnylam's Kendall Square location(which they rent, not own) costs them dearly. They no longer have sufficient head count to populate the three stories of the four story structure they occupy.

Maybe this is evidence of some necessariy belt tightening.

We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Dirk, do you think Alnylam may be planning to set up their own manufacturing facility in the new space they just rented?

Dirk Haussecker said...

Interesting thought. It's a lot of space for that though. I favor the belt-tightening hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

You can't read too much into who was let go and who stays. RNAi as a field is getting crushed and is hemorrhaging good people left and right at every company. There is not much logic to who stays and who goes, but it is clear that we're not in a minor down-turn in RNAi, but really in a protracted death spiral. It's very clear to the world, and it's only a matter of time before most of the smaller RNAi biotechs cease operations permanently.

It's not a good idea to publicly single out individuals from companies.

Dirk Haussecker said...

"It's not a good idea to publicly single out individuals from companies."

It depends. Somebody, a Senior Director who has probably cost shareholders close to $2M in wages and benefits alone, claiming to have managed over 50 FTEs and done due diligence in RNAi delivery research at Alnylam must have played a central role in the high-profile conflict between Alnylam and Tekmira, which btw is a very personal conflict to many involved.

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