Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PBL Grants Alnylam Non-Exclusive License to RNAi Trigger IP, Increasing Alnylam Partnering Prospects

The fact that Alnylam has started to advertise itself as a product- and not platform-based company can be partly attributed to the the loss of its once strong position in RNAi Trigger intellectual property.  After it became clear that the company not only forfeited its gate-keeping potential (see Kreutzer-Limmer and Tuschl patent prosecutions), it got even worse when other IP, most notably the Baulcombe US patent issued earlier this year interfered with that company’s freedom-to-operate in RNAi triggers, once its core value proposition.  This also meant that prospects for product partnering deals that have been promised by the company to happen this year were quite low. 

Today’s announcement that the IP commercialization arm of various British plant research organization, Plant Bioscience Ltd (PBL), is granting Alnylam a worldwide, non-exclusive license to the Baulcombe IP thus removes some of the overhang.  This IP, and the US patent in particular, covers much of the size range for which Alnylam’s exclusively held core Tuschl II overhang IP is useful for, including all of the RNAi triggers in Alnylam’s development pipeline (for a more detailed background on the IP, see here).  Of course, it does not remove the overhang that Tekmira owns the delivery technology on which Alnylam’s most valuable pipeline assets rely on…

It is notable that PBL granted Alnylam solely a non-exclusive license.  This is because the licensing organizations of academic institutions generally prefer to provide exclusive licenses to drug developers with gate-keeping IP positions as this arguably increases the value of the IP versus a scenario in which critical IP is divided between competing companies.  This could thus be consistent with PBL considering Alnylam’s IP estate as non-gatekeeping- as I do.  

Today’s development is positive in two ways.  For one, it acknowledges the scientific contributions of the plant community in the discovery of RNAi.  It also indicates that Alnylam is becoming more realistic about its own IP position and will take additional licenses to IP even if it does not control them outright.  Having said that, I do not consider it likely that it will likewise seek RNAi trigger IP licenses from competing companies such as Silence Therapeutics (e.g. Zamore) unless it can do so after a bankruptcy, or even that Alnylam’s management and BoD will abandon personal pride and brinkmanship in light of Tekmira.

Brief comment on Facebook IPO 'outrage'

Just as I find it incredulous that a newspaper like the New York Times poses the (really rhetorical) question of whether insider trading is part of the fabric of Wall Street (if they don't even know what  has been going on in their backyard for decades, why does the NY Times get so much acclaim?), I find it unbelievable (well not really as it is about gaining business advantage and popular votes) that the story about the potentially illegal sharing of insights between the research and investment banking arms of financial institutions such as Morgan Stanley is getting so much attention.  It's been happening in biotech all along.  What is ironic, without violating the Chinese Wall, it seems almost impossible for biotech companies these days to raise capital.  


Anonymous said...

What does this mean for the RNAi IP space?

Dirk Haussecker said...

I guess that as long as Benitec and CSIRO continue to align forces, it should not change that much. Patents seem of interest particularly for ex vivo ddRNAi Rx applications.

By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

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