By Ransdell Pierson
SAN FRANCISCO Jan 13 French drugmaker Sanofi
will buy a 12 percent stake in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
Inc for $700 million and deepen their partnership to
develop drugs for rare genetic diseases.
The companies said in a joint statement on Monday that
Sanofi would buy Alnylam shares for about $80 each, representing
a 27 percent premium compared to their average price over the
past 30 days.
The partnership between Sanofi and Alnylam began in 2012,
the year after Sanofi jumped into the business of treating rare
genetic diseases by paying more than $20 billion for U.S.
biotechnology company Genzyme, a leader in the field.
The Genzyme drugs include blockbuster treatments such as
Fabrazyme for a rare condition called Fabry disease and Cerezyme
for Gaucher disease. They are among the world's most expensive
drugs, costing as much as $200,000 per year.
Sanofi was attracted to Alnylam because of its technology,
called RNA interference (RNAi), which prevents genes from making
their designated proteins.
"This is a game-changing deal that will allow us to grow and
accelerate development of RNAi therapeutics," Barry Greene,
president and chief operating officer of Alnylam, said in a
The announcement by Sanofi and Alnylam coincides with the
beginning of the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, a
four-day event in San Francisco where hundreds of drugmakers
meet with bankers and industry analysts.
The companies originally agreed to work together to develop
and sell Alnylam's lead product, patisiran, which is in
late-stage trials for treatment of a rare life-threatening
disease called transthyretin (TTR)-familial amyloid
polyneuropathy. The condition, caused by misfolding of the TTR
protein, damages the nervous system.
Sanofi originally only had rights to the drug in Japan and
the broader Asia-Pacific region, where the disease is most
common. But under the expanded partnership, it will have rights
to sell the medicine, if it is approved, in all regions outside
of North America and Western Europe, where Alnylam will retain
Sanofi will now also obtain rights to three other Alnylam
products, including one in mid-stage trials that also targets
the TTR protein, in order to treat a type of heart disease
called familial amyloid cardiomyopathy.
The companies will co-develop and co-market the product,
called ALN-TTRsc, in North America and Western Europe, while
Alnylam retains sales rights in the rest of the world. About
50,000 patients worldwide are believed to have the condition, or
the related condition treated by patisiran, Greene said.
Sanofi will also now have rights to an Alnylam drug in
early-stage trials for hemophilia and other genetic bleeding
disorders, called ALN-AT3, Greene said, adding that up to 70,000
hemophiliacs worldwide could be helped by his product. Data from
the trial are expected late this year.
Moreover, Sanofi will now have the right to option until at
least 2020 the rights to develop and sell outside of North
America and Western Europe all treatments for rare genetic
diseases being developed by Alnylam that have yet to be tested
Greene said RNAi drugs, if approved in coming years, could
become a new mainstay of treatment for a wide array of diseases.
"The entire biotech industry was founded on recombinant
proteins and monoclonal antibodies, and has over $50 billion in
annual revenue," Greene said. "RNAi therapeutis now have the
opportunity to be the next product platform."
Beginning January 1, 2015, Alnylam is slated to receive
research and development funding from Sanofi for programs the
French drugmaker selects for the partnership. Also, Alnylam will
be eligible to receive milestone payments and royalties from
sales, the companies said.