This collaboration is in addition to the collaboration formed by the two companies in September 2005, and is designed to reinforce the development program for pandemic flu announced by Alnylam in December 2005.
In the newly formed collaboration, Alnylam and Novartis will advance RNAi therapeutics for pandemic flu to initial clinical testing and, if successful, regulatory approval.
This alliance is designed to leverage Alnylam’s expertise in RNAi and Novartis’ capabilities and experience in bringing therapeutics to patients.
"We are delighted to work with our colleagues at Alnylam to devise new therapies for influenza," said Mark Fishman, M.D., President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.
"The influenza virus, through rapid mutation and potential inter-species transfer, represents an epidemic threat to the citizens of all countries. Multiple therapies are likely to be required both to prevent and to treat influenza."
"An RNAi therapeutic could be an innovative modality, crippling the virus through incapacitating several genes."
"In addition, such drugs might be adapted to new strains as they emerge. Of course, the technology is young and is just now being tested in early clinical trials, but our hope is that it will open new therapeutic frontiers."
In December 2005 Alnylam announced that it had selected its pandemic flu program as a development program. The company also announced that it had received initial government funding for the program from the Department of Defense’s ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’ (DARPA).
The focus of the program is the development of an RNAi therapeutic targeting sequences both specific for particular strains and conserved across all flu strains, including those of avian origin.
This RNAi therapeutic would be expected to have anti-viral activity against any newly emerging strain of influenza capable of causing human disease and leading to a pandemic, including any variant of the H5N1 strain.
"Having experienced the benefits of collaborating with Novartis over the last several months, we are delighted to partner with them in tackling what may be the biggest public health threat facing the world today," said John Maraganore, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
"Working together with Novartis and government agencies, we are confident in our ability to harness the power of RNAi to help prepare for the possibility of a global influenza pandemic."
"This new collaboration significantly enhances the efforts we announced in December 2005 to advance our RNAi therapeutic program in pandemic flu toward the clinic."