Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, (NASDAQ:ALNY) a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that primarily develops RNA interference drugs to treat genetic diseases, announced Sunday that it will purchase Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) subsidiary company Sirna Therapeutics, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company that is also focused on RNA interference technologies.
Alnylam CEO John Maraganore said in a statement that he believes the assets acquired from Merck will help the company further its goal in establishing a new class of drugs to treat genetic diseases. “We believe that the acquisition of Merck’s RNAi technologies and intellectual property will further our efforts to build a new class of medicines, advancing them to patients in need,” he said, per The Wall Street Journal.
Alnylam is poised to pay Merck $175 million upfront for the unit, $25 million of which will be in cash and the remainder of which — approximately $150 million — will be paid in Alnylam common stock, the Journal reports. Merck is potentially also eligible to receive up to $115 million in milestone payments and royalties.
Several Merck scientists at Sirna have made advancements in the field of RNAi technologies. In particular, advancements have been made involving the design and engineering of RNAi molecules with enhanced, drug-like properties, according to a press release via BusinessWire.
Per the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, RNAi is a natural process which cells use to “turn down the volume” of or silence completely the activity of certain genes. It was discovered in 1998 and has since become a new frontier in the biomedical industry for the treatment of genetic diseases.
Shares of Alnylam are up this week to their highest rate in almost in almost a decade, rising 47 percent to $97.10 after French pharmaceutical company Sanofi (NYSE:SNE) agreed to pay $700 million for access to rare disease treatments and a 12 percent stake in the company, according to Bloomberg.