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Novartis, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Silence Therapeutics

Novartis Extends RNAi Alliance with Alnylam Through 2009
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals this week announced that its collaboration with Novartis his been extended an additional year and will now run through October 2009.
"Our efforts with Novartis have been very productive over the past three years, and we are delighted that Novartis has elected to extend our alliance for another year," Alnylam CEO John Maraganore said in a statement.
The companies first began working together in 2005 through a broad drug-discovery and –development deal that included Novartis taking a 19.9 percent stake in Alnylam (see RNAi News, 9/9/2005). Novartis currently owns about 13.4 percent of Alnylam.
The partnership was later expanded to specifically include Alnylam’s investigational influenza therapy (see RNAi News, 2/23/2006), although that program has been put on hold indefinitely (see RNAi News, 8/16/2007).
With the extension of its alliance with Alnylam, Novartis will continue to fund collaboration-focused research and development efforts conducted by its partner. Novartis also continues to have the right to non-exclusively license Alnylam’s RNAi platform technology in exchange for an undisclosed upfront fee, milestones, and royalties, and may purchase additional Alnylam stock to bring its stake in the RNAi shop back up to 19.9 percent.
Novartis may extend the alliance with Alnylam for one more one-year term, up through October 2010.

Dicerna Raises Additional $8.4M in Series A, Formally Announces Strategic Focus
Dicerna Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has raised an additional $8.4 million through a Series A round of private financing, bringing the total value of the round to $21.4 million.
The additional capital was provided by existing investors, as well as new investor Abingworth, which was an early investor in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. With the investment, Abingworth venture partner Vin Miles has joined Dicerna’s board of directors.
Dicerna also announced that it will focus its drug-development efforts on the areas of oncology, metabolic diseases, and hepatitis C infection. In June, RNAi News first reported that the company had set its sights on these fields (see RNAi News, 6/12/2008).

Alnylam Patent Overturned by European Patent Office
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals last week reported that its European Glover patent, which the company exclusively licensed from Cancer Research Technology, has been overturned by the European Patent Office during opposition proceedings.
Alnylam said it would appeal the ruling.
"The European patent process is lengthy, often involving opposition and appeal procedures that result in varied outcomes, and we consider this outcome just one step for our Glover patent,” Alnylam President and COO Barry Greene said in a statement. “Moreover, [the] ruling does not alter the significant position of Alnylam [intellectual property] for developing and commercializing RNAi therapeutics, nor does it impact any of our ongoing business development discussions, as the Glover patent was only one of eleven issued or granted fundamental patents held by Alnylam.”
Jeff Vick, CEO of Silence Therapeutics, which had joined Sanofi-Aventis, Quark Pharmaceuticals, Merck subsidiary Sirna Therapeutics, and Nucleonics in opposing the patent, said in a statement last week that the Glover patent “was arguably Alnylam’s broadest patent, and the successful opposition represents an important victory for us in allowing us to maintain our freedom to operate. 
“We have long believed that this patent would be revoked and are very pleased with the outcome,” he added.
The patent, EP 1230375, is entitled “Inhibiting Gene Expression with dsRNA” and claims the use of dsRNA to inhibit gene expression in mammals.