Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in Talks on Cholesterol Drug

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. is in talks with “more than one” possible partner to help develop the company’s injectable drug to treat high cholesterol in patients for whom statins aren’t effective, Chief Executive Officer John Maraganore said.

The drugmaker wants to find a partner “over the next few months” to help take the treatment forward in clinical trials, Maraganore said in a telephone interview yesterday. “We are in talks with more than one party at this time,” Maraganore said. He declined to identify any of the companies that are talking with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Alnylam.

Alnylam’s drug is in a class known as anti-PCSK9 therapies. The medicine likely would be used in people whose cholesterol hasn’t been controlled on medicines including Pfizer Inc.’s pill Lipitor, which generated $9.58 billion last year. The product could be taken by millions of patients for whom statins aren’t enough.

“It’s a very hot target in this pharma world,” Michael King, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw, said in a telephone interview. “They’re going to need a partner of some substance.”

Alnylam shares rose less than 1 percent to $18.76 at the close in New York.

Stops PCSK9

Called ALN-PCS, Alnylam’s drug stops a patient’s genes from making PCSK9, a protein that keeps liver cells from stripping bad LDL cholesterol from the blood. Other companies’ medicines prevent the PCSK9 protein from binding to LDL receptors.

“Our approach turns off the faucet and prevents the flood from starting to begin with,” Maraganore said. “The antibody approach mops up the floor but doesn’t turn off the faucet.”

Companies that are doing researching in the area are Merck & Co., based in Whitehouse Station; New Jersey, Paris-based Sanofi and Tarrytown, New York-based partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.; New York-based Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; and Thousand Oaks, California-based Amgen Inc.

Alnylam has completed a study of ALN-PCS in 32 healthy volunteers. Taking the drug into the second and third phases of trials will require a larger pool of patients, and cost more.

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