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Alnylam awarded USD 38.6m grant for RNAi antivirals

US-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has secured government funding for its biodefence programme with an award of USD 38.6m grant from the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for the development of an RNAi drug to treat viral hemorrhagic fevers.

US-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has secured government funding for its biodefence programme with an award of USD 38.6m grant from the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for the development of an RNAi drug to treat viral hemorrhagic fevers.

Alnylam said it would research the silencing of host targets involved in viral pathogenesis and disease progression, and hopes to develop broad-spectrum RNAi therapies to treat multiple viruses responsible for viral haemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola.

Any developed drug candidates will undergo testing at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The 33-month contract supports all research activities up to phase I trials.

Animal or insect vectors spread viral haemorrhagic fevers. When humans are infected, victims suffer vascular damage, haemorrhage and multiple organ failure and there are no established treatments or cures for most cases.

Historically, Alnylam has signed an R&D agreement with USAMRIID to discover RNAi therapeutics targeting viral organisms in 2006. In the same year, the National Institutes of Health awarded Alnylam a USD 23m grant to support research on the Ebola virus. The US Congress then passed the Defense Appropriations Act of 2007, which contributed an extra USD 1.1m to Alnylam's existing RNAi biodefence projects.

Alnylam Biodefense has so far been awarded more than USD 63m in Federal contracts and the Ebola programme has been somewhat successful with preclinical data to be published soon.

On a private basis, Alnylam is working with Swiss-based Novartis to develop ALN-FLU01 for pandemic flu and with US-headquartered Biogen Idec to develop an RNAi treatment for progressive multifocal leuko-encephalopathy, a disease caused by the JC virus which has been linked to the use of Biogen Idec's multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab).

Alnylam's R&D pipeline also includes a programme to deliver RNAi therapeutics and says it will file an iNDA in Q4 2007 for hyper-cholesterolaemia treatment ALN-PCS01 or liver cancer treatment ALN-VSP01.

In Q2 FY07, Alnylam racked up sales of USD 9.1m and a GAAP net loss of USD 12.7m, or USD 0.34 per share. Cash and marketable securities were USD 194.8m, although the company said it should have more than USD 435m by the end of Q4 FY07.

10th August 2007

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