U.S. biotech companies Alnylam, Dicerna settle trade secrets case

BOSTON (Reuters) - Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Friday that Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc will pay it $25 million in cash and stock to resolve a lawsuit claiming it stole trade secrets about gene-silencing technology used to develop drug treatments.

The settlement between the two biotech companies resolves a lawsuit that Alnylam filed against Dicerna in 2015. The accord came ahead of a jury trial that was set to begin on Monday in state court in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Under the agreement, Dicerna said it will pay Alnylam $2 million up-front plus 983,208 shares of its common stock.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Dicerna said it will also pay Alnylam another $13 million over the next four years, the timing of which is dependent on revenue Dicerna receives pursuant to future RNAi technology-based partnerships under its GalXC brand.

Alnylam, also Cambridge-based, in a statement said the deal would also place certain restrictions on Dicerna. Neither company admitted wrongdoing.

Dicerna’s stock was trading at $13.20 midday on Friday, up 29.12 percent. Shares in Alnylam were trading at $97.59, up 1.46 percent.

Alnylam’s lawsuit accused Dicerna of misappropriating confidential information related to RNAi technology Alnylam acquired when in 2014 when it bought a Merck & Co Inc subsidiary in a deal it valued in court papers at $325 million.

RNAi, or RNA interference, prevents a defective gene from making disease-causing proteins.

The lawsuit said Dicerna, which unsuccessfully tried to acquire RNAi assets from Merck, used confidential information it reviewed while considering the potential transaction in violation of a confidentiality agreement.

Alnylam contended Dicerna also hired several Merck scientists who had been involved in developing the technologies its rival acquired as part of an intentional scheme to gain access to trade secrets and confidential information.

Alnylam in court papers filed in Middlesex County Superior Court said the scheme allowed Dicerna to develop “strikingly similar” technologies within a year and unjustly enriched the company by up to $325 million.

Dicerna denied the allegations. It filed a counterclaim alleging Alnylam was pursuing a frivolous lawsuit that improperly interfered with its funding sources and partnership opportunities in order to crush its smaller competitor.

Dicerna sought $42.2 million in damages. It also filed a related federal antitrust case against Alnylam, which is also being settled.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown