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Alnylam, Medtronic Ink Deal to Co-Develop Therapies for Neurodegenerative Diseases

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Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has signed a deal with medical device maker Medtronic to co-develop therapies for neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, the companies said this week.

Under the arrangement, Alnylam would develop RNAi-based drugs to treat the various diseases, while Medtronic would develop medical devices to deliver the drugs to specific locations within the nervous system.

Alnylam is to be responsible for drug discovery and the initial development of potential RNAi drugs, while Medtronic would handle late-stage development and commercialization efforts of a drug/device product.

The companies said that after the completion of an “initial joint technology development program,” and after both partners agree to pursue product development, Medtronic would make an undisclosed equity investment in Alnylam.

Additional investments could result from the achievement of pre-determined and undisclosed milestones. Alnylam also stands to receive cash milestone payments for each product developed, as well as royalties on the sale of RNAi components of drug/device products the result from the collaboration.

Additional terms were not provided.

The deal with Medtronic broadens Alnylam’s work in the neurodegenerative disease field, which currently includes to a collaboration with the Mayo Clinic to develop an siRNA targeting the alpha synuclein gene for Parkinson’s disease. The partnership also marks a new approach for Alnylam in overcoming the problem of delivery facing RNAi-based therapeutics.

“A key component of our strategy at Alnylam is to focus on nearer-term opportunities for ... RNAi therapeutics that will be administered directly to the site of disease,” Vincent Miles, Alnylam’s senior vice president of business development, told RNAi News in an e-mail.

“This alliance is an important step in applying [a] direct RNAi approach to important neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, which are potentially excellent candidates for RNAi therapeutics,” he said. “Clearly, to deliver siRNAs directly to the brain we will need to use specialized devices, and that’s where Medtronic comes in. Working with them will therefore provide a significant boost to our progress in developing our pipeline of RNAi therapeutics in a rapid, focused, and strategic way.”

—DM

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