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Alnylam Wins BIO s Helix Award; Some Past Winners Have Little to Show for It

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The Biotechnology Industry Organization this week awarded Alnylam Pharmaceuticals the James D. Watson Helix award for corporate excellence in the emerging/mid-cap category.

The award, presented during BIO's annual CEO and Investor meeting in New York, honors leadership in scientific innovation, company growth, and corporate citizenship. It is presented by the Long Island Life Sciences Initiative, and is jointly sponsored by BIO, Stony Brook University, and The Center for Biotechnology.

Other winners this year include Genentech in the large-cap category, and Novo Nordisk in the international category.

"These companies have been selected and recognized as industry leaders by being nominated by their peers," Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO, said in a statement. "Each firm is devoting its resources to developing cutting-edge science that will lead to breakthrough, life-saving therapies."

Despite the accolades from BIO and others in the industry, receipt of the Helix award doesn't always portend success — especially in the emerging/mid-cap company category.

In 2002, Isis Pharmaceuticals received the Helix award as an emerging company. Since that time, the company has suffered numerous setbacks in developing its antisense drugs, and seen its stock price fall 60 percent from around $18 at the time the award was given to about $7.25 today.

A year later, Trimeris was given the Helix award in the mid-cap category, and was lauded for its development of the HIV/AIDS drug Fuzeon. However, the drug has failed to be a big seller, in part because of its cost and twice-daily injection regimen. While shares of Trimeris traded around $40 when the company received the award, the stock has fallen to around $11.75.

Yet other past winners have had more success. Onyx Pharmaceuticals, which took the Helix award in the mid-cap category in 2004, has had success with its cancer drug Nexavar, developed in collaboration with Bayer. The drug is approved in the US for kidney cancer and is under investigation for other malignancies including lung cancer.

Last year's mid-cap Helix award winner, Medarex, continues to develop a number of antibody-based drugs with partners including Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

— Doug Macron ([email protected])

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