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Published on 10 July 2007

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Roche joins RNAi gene pool

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Just after AstraZeneca dipped its toes in the research pool that is RNA interference (RNAi), Roche has dived in headfirst and signed a deal worth more than $1bn with the USA’s Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

The Swiss drugs giant has obtained a non-exclusive licence to Alnylam’s technology platform for developing RNAi therapeutics covering oncology, as well as respiratory, metabolic and liver diseases.

Roche will also acquire Alnylam’s European research site (and 40 staff) at Kulmbach, Germany, which will become its centre of excellence for RNAi therapeutics discovery. RNAi therapeutics is considered to be one of the hottest new areas of drug research and last year resulted in a Nobel prize for medicine for the technology’s discoverers, Dr Andrew Fire and Dr Craig Mello.

However access to Alnylam’s wares does not come cheap. Under the terms of the deal, Roche will fork out $331m upfront in cash and equity investment. The agreement’s value could rise to more than $1bn.

However, other companies are also making strides in RNAi. AstraZeneca has just signed a



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