Monday, October 22, 2012

Genzyme Taps RNAi Therapeutics for TTR Amyloidosis

Orphan disease gold miner Genzyme has just partnered Alnylam’s promising TTR amyloidosis drug candidate, giving it the right to commercialize resulting medicines in Japan and ‘other Asia-Pacific countries’.  In addition to a healthy $22.5M upfront, Alnylam stands to receive the customary development milestones and actually high royalties for a post-phase I program, plus Genzyme bears responsibility for the regulatory process in the licensed territories.

The basis for this deal, as also expressly stated in the press release, were the potent, ~90% knockdown efficacies obtained in the (single) dose-ranging ALN-TTR02 phase I study (for review, see 'Simply SNALP').  Critically, it was Tekmira’s SNALP delivery technology that made these results possible and catapulted Alnylam’s market cap by ~300M (50% increase in share price) at the time the phase I results were announced this summer.  I should add, however, that in addition to ALN-TTR02, the preclinical subcutaneously administered candidate ALN-TTRsc has been included in the deal. 

Clearly, if they are really serious about the competitiveness of the subcutaneously administered GalNAc-siRNA conjugate, Genzyme has got to be hoping that there won’t be a repeat of the mipomersen (antisense) injection site reaction fiasco which, in addition to the liver fat and immune stimulation issues, is endangering the approval for mipomersen even in the very high unmet medical need population of homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia.  In this case, the adverse event that could drastically lower the deal value soon after its close comes in the form of the Tekmira litigation risk (note: Genzyme is ISIS' partner on mipomersen and should know, also about the strength of the competing subQ ISIS-TTRRx program which is partnered with GSK).  

In case you are wondering what I am alluding to: less than a month after Genzyme invested more than $300M in ISIS and their hypercholesterolemia candidate mipomersen, the FDA issued a Partial Clinical Hold due to significant safety signals with the systemic phosphorothioate oligonucleotide, according to last week’s Briefing Documents for the mipomersen Advisory Committee meeting.   The risk in the TTR case, of course, is the pending litigation with Tekmira, involving the critical RNAi delivery technology enabling the ALN-TTR02 results, its manufacturing and other (e.g. 2’-O-methyl) IP associated with the TTR amyloidosis program.  You would expect that Genzyme would have at least waited for another month or so before closing the deal (trial date in November).  

I doubt that the deal value would have been much higher without the overhang given the size of the Asian TTR market.  But then, of course, nothing can surprise me here any more and a resolution to the Alnylam-Tekmira troubles may already have been hammered out.  A clue may be how Tekmira responds to the news.  If there is tonight a we-are-pleased-that-Genzyme-has-partnered-ALN-TTR02-for-which-we-provide-the-delivery-technology-PR, then it's probably nothing to get excited about.  But if there is silence, then maybe the real news may come with a slight delay.  

Talking of Tekmira, this company, as it is customary in biotech sub-licensing, is likely to receive a partial payment out of the $22.5M upfront (plus a cut of the future income stream related to ALN-TTR02).  Another partnership implication is that Alnylam has talked to Takeda, and Takeda declined on ALN-TTR.  As you remember, in 2008 Takeda forked over $150M to Alnylam, also for being the exclusive Asian partner for 5 years with a right of first refusal for Alnylam drug candidates in the Asian territories.   You’ve got to wonder how comfortable that conversation was, especially after handing over some of that for the ‘technology transfer’.  There might be even less room to hide from Genzyme, as I believe Genzyme and Alnylam may be sharing one building now.


Anonymous said...

"Tekmira, this company, as it is customary in biotech sub-licensing, is likely to receive a partial payment out of the $22.5M upfront "

isis got 1.1

tkmr: no idea what is in the agreements. tkmr as a small company probably had not such a good agreement when they signed their tech over to alny.

btw no word from tkmr either with the vsp deal

Anonymous said...

"You would expect that Genzyme would have at least waited for another month or so before closing the deal (trial date in November)."

Not really. Usually the price and details of an agreement are different when there is less risk. This was probably aready 6+ months in the works.

Look at the VSP deal. I thought it wouldn't happen before the patent/litigation would be done. ALNY just singned it so somebody else would do something with it. And there are probably all kinds of conditions on royalties and payments in the agreement depending on what happens with patents/litigation.

Dirk Haussecker said...

"tkmr as a small company probably had not such a good agreement when they signed their tech over to alny."

I've heard this argument before: yes, TKMR got screwed, but since it's the small company it probably got screwed over legally. 'Signed their tech over to alny'- laughable.

FH Foundation said...

It'll be nice once they can shift more focus on FH. I wonder if the Genzyme deal will have a positive effect on hypercholesterolemia and the treatment for it.

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