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Alnylam RNAi Patent Upheld by EPO

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Alnylam Pharmaceuticals this week announced that the European Patent Office has upheld a company patent related to chemically modified siRNAs and their ability to downregulate target genes via RNAi.

According to Alnylam, the patent — EP1423406, and part of the so-called McSwiggen patent family — comprises a "core component" of its overall intellectual property estate for RNAi medicines.

Notably, Alnylam obtained the patent, which was originally assigned to Sirna Therapeutics, when it acquired the RNAi assets of Merck earlier this year for $175 million in stock and cash. In 2007, Merck paid $1.1 billion for Sirna.

Alnylam had been one of several parties that had opposed the patent at the EPO. Joining Alnylam in its opposition were Dharmacon (now Thermo Fisher Scientific), Alcon, and Sanofi. Sanofi is the parent company of Genzyme, which recently inked a multi-year alliance with Alnylam worth up to $700 million.

Just after its deal with Merck, Alnylam withdrew its opposition to the patent.

"We are pleased with the European Patent Office's decision to uphold the '406 patent," Alnylam Chief Business Officer Laurence Reid said in a statement. "This patent has broad and significant claims describing chemical modifications of RNAi therapeutics, which we believe are critical for the development and commercialization of all RNAi therapeutics."

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