The NIAID is committing to $7.5 million in additional funding for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. The existing contract with the company is focused on the development of a broad-spectrum RNAi antiviral against hemorrhagic fever virus including Ebola.
Alnylam was initially commissioned in September 2006. The institute agreed to pay up to $23 million over a four-year period. To date, it has committed up to $14.2 million, according to Alnylam. The NIAID will now provide $7.5 million more than was originally agreed upon for the third year of this contract.
“To date, we have been granted more than $63 million in federal contracts for Alnylam Biodefense,” points out Barry Greene, president and COO. About a year ago, the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency signed on Alnylam for $38.6 million.
Alnylam presented preclinical data from this program utilizing an optimized RNAi therapeutic formulated in a lipid particle for systemic delivery. The data showed that potent siRNAs with in vitro antiviral activity were identified against all genes in the Ebola genome, according to Alnylam.
A greater than 95% decrease in viral titer was seen when an RNAi therapeutic targeting one of these genes, VP35, was administered to mice infected with Ebola. Moreover, the VP35 siRNA as compared with a control nonspecific siRNA protected both mice and guinea pigs from lethal Ebola infection. This work was done in collaboration with Tekmira Pharmaceuticals using their lipid particle delivery formulation technology.