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In it for the long haul: A chat with Barry Greene

SAN FRANCISCO—Some biotechs are born with the goal of cashing out. But not Alnylam. The company, which spent the first 15 years of its life in R&D mode, will commercialize its first treatment this year—with plans to keep them coming.

The Boston-based biotech isn’t here by accident, said Barry Greene, Alnylam president.

“This is always where we intended to be,” Greene said. “Our desire is to be as innovative in the commercial space as we have been in the R&D space.”

So what’s in store for Alnylam?

Slated for U.S. launch midyear, the hereditary ATTR amyloidosis drug patisiran will be Alnylam’s first drug to hit the market. But it won’t be the last. Close behind is givosiran, its candidate for the treatment of super-rare porphyria diseases.

Last month alone, the company filed patisiran for regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe, and got the FDA all-clear to resume trials of its hemophilia drug fitusiran that had been put on hold after a patient died in a midstage trial.

And Alnylam announced Monday that it would restructure its RNAi collaboration with Sanofi—now, the rights to patisiran and fitusiran are divided by asset rather than geography. Under the original deal, struck in 2014, Alynylam ceded to Sanofi the rights to patisiran outside of North America and Western Europe.

With the retooling of the deal, Alnylam once again has global rights to patisiran, as well as those to its early-stage candidate ALN-TTRsc02, while Sanofi will pick up the global rights for fitusiran.

“When we originally entered into the Sanofi deal in January 2014, Sanofi was a different company with a different CEO and a different direction,” Greene said. At the time, Sanofi was running orphan diseases as a separate business and focused on growth in emerging markets, he said.

Now, with Olivier Brandicourt at the helm, “the strategic rationale of that deal did not make as much sense in [Sanofi’s] new construct as it did before,” Greene said.

Alnylam now has the ability to optimize patisiran for the full spectrum of ATTR amyloidosis, not just the hereditary form of the disease. And the company is moving full speed ahead, building a global commercialization operation and pushing patient-finding and disease education efforts—a “capability that will serve us well for future products we develop.”

And Alnylam intends to keep on delivering new programs each year, Greene said.

“Companies don’t get sold,” he said. “They get bought. Novel technology is better off in the hands of hungry biotech people who live and die to make it work.”

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