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Tekmira Says USPTO Declares Interference for Alnylam Patent as Firms Continue Litigation

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Tekmira Pharmaceuticals this week announced that the US Patent and Trademark Office has declared a patent interference for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals' US patent covering siRNAs against a key target for its phase I liver cancer drug ALN-VSP.

As part of an ongoing lawsuit between the companies, Tekmira has alleged that certain claims in the patent, No. 7,718,629, are invalid in light of a Tekmira patent application. The patent office will now determine the priority of the subject matter in Alnylam's patent with respect to Tekmira's intellectual property, it said.

Tekmira also said that the court hearing the case has dismissed an Alnylam claim of defamation against Tekmira, which was related to public statements the company made when it first filed the lawsuit.

The dispute began in March when Tekmira sued Alnylam for allegedly stealing trade secrets related to its lipid delivery technology (GSN 3/17/2011).

During a conference call at the time, Tekmira President and CEO Mark Murray said that “Alnylam abused its collaborator status and access to [the] confidential information by improperly using this information for its own internal purposes and to replicate a competing technology in ways that were unauthorized and without our consent.”

He added that Alnylam “stole” a specific delivery approach called MC3.

Alnylam countersued, claiming that Tekmira violated the companies' agreement to resolve disputes through non-public arbitration, and alleging that Tekmira itself stole Alnylam trade secrets.

Alnylam also charged Tekmira with filing a US patent application on an siRNA sequence against kinesin spindle protein, also known as Eg5, which is one of the two targets of ALN-VSP. Alnylam said that Tekmira gained knowledge of the sequence by abusing its status as Alnylam's manufacturing partner.

This week, Tekmira said that the USPTO is reviewing Alnylam's '629 patent, which claims siRNAs against Eg5.

It also said that the court found that the statements made by Murray in March did not constitute defamation because the law permits Tekmira to “communicate with its shareholders as it did upon filing the lawsuit.”

Tekmira also updated its financial guidance in light of the legal developments, stating that its cash runway will extend to the end of 2012, assuming “continued investment in the advancement of [its] product candidates and lipid nanoparticle technology, as well as the conclusion of the ongoing … litigation.”

Tekmira added that it has requested a trial date for the fall of 2012.