Companies are working under a separate arrangement on an RNAi treatment for pandemic flu.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals confirmed that its RNAi therapeutics collaboration with Novartis has been extended for a fifth year to October 2010. The companies are working on the discovery, development, and commercialization of RNAi therapeutics against a defined number of Novartis targets. This second extension means the alliance will run its full five-year course.

Under terms of the original deal, signed in September 2005, the companies are sharing RNAi discovery activities, with Novartis taking the weight of product development and commercialization. Novartis also has certain rights to buy Alnylam equity up to its current ownership level, which stands at some 13.4%.

When the agreement was inked in 2005 Novartis paid Alnylam $58.5 million for new equity in the company, taking Novartis’ shareholding in Alnylam up to 19.9% at that time. Novartis also paid Alnylam an additional $10 million on closure of the deal. 

In February 2006 the companies announced a separate collaboration focused on developing an RNAi therapeutic against pandemic flu. The deal was clinched a couple of months after Alnylam confirmed it had received initial government funding for its pandemic flu program from the DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The program is focused on development of an RNAi therapeutic targeting both strain-specific and conserved sequences including those of avian origin.

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