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GEN News Highlights : Nov 1, 2011

GSK Taps Alnylam’s RNAi Technology for Vaccine Production

Firm will initially use VaxiRNA with its influenza vaccine and has an option for two more candidates.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) inked a deal with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals to use the latter’s VaxiRNA™ technology for certain GSK vaccine products. VaxiRNA is an RNAi technology that reportedly enables the enhanced production of viruses used in the manufacture of vaccines.

The deal is initially focused on influenza vaccine production in cell culture systems. Under terms of the agreement, GSK will provide research funding and certain milestone payments to Alnylam. If successfully applied in the manufacture of a commercial product, Alnylam will receive payments on unit product sales. GSK has also obtained an option for VaxiRNA applications toward two additional vaccine products.

In VaxiRNA “siRNA technology is being used to increase virus titers in the production of vaccine products,” explains John Maraganore, Ph.D., CEO of Alnylam. “Since production of vaccines can be limiting for the scale and speed of global immunization against many pathogens including influenza, we believe that VaxiRNA can become an enabling technology for the broader vaccine industry.”

Alnylam’s VaxiRNA platform applies siRNAs for the silencing of specific genes that limit or prevent efficient growth of viruses in vaccine manufacturing systems, including those in cell culture and also in eggs. The VaxiRNA platform stems from work Alnylam has performed as part of its Alnylam Biotherapeutics efforts, where RNAi technology has been applied to improve the manufacture of biotherapeutic products, such as recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies. This new platform addresses the significant unmet commercial need for innovative technologies that can improve the manufacture of vaccine products, especially where vaccine production is a limiting factor for the scale and speed of global immunization needs.