Alnylam Makes More Job Cuts | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: January 23, 2012

Alnylam Makes More Job Cuts

RNAi Therapeutics: One-third of staff will be laid off as firm focuses on putting drugs into clinical trials
Department: Business
Keywords: RNAi, biotech, hemophilia, jobs

Alnylam is making another round of job cuts as it sharpens its focus onto the clinical development of a handful of RNAi-based drug candidates. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company, which according to government filings had 171 employees at the end of September 2011, will trim 33% of its workforce in order to save roughly $20 million this year. Alnylam will take a $4 million charge related to the restructuring in the first quarter.

“At a personal level this was a very difficult decision to make,” says CEO John Maraganore, “but we are convinced that it is an important step in continuing to build our company for the long term.”

The move marks the second round of major layoffs at Alnylam, which in September 2010 shed a quarter of its staff after ending a five-year research collaboration with Novartis. In the subsequent months, the biotech firm set out to transform itself from a platform company focused on research alliances and drug discovery, to a product company focused on pushing drugs towards commercialization.

The cuts come amid a shift in strategy for that product pipeline. A year ago, Alynlam unveiled a plan to put five RNAi-based drugs in the clinic by 2015, saying it would commercialize those products in the U.S. on its own. Earlier this month, Alnylam modified that goal and announced that it will seek partners for three of the drug candidates prior to starting Phase I or II clinical trials.

Internal cash will now be devoted to developing two programs: therapeutics targeting TTR, a gene expressed in the liver, for the treatment of transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis; and drugs targeting protein C, a natural anticoagulant, for the treatment of hemophilia. Alnylam’s lead TTR candidate, ALN-TTR02, is slated to complete Phase I trials and enter Phase II this year; meanwhile, the biotech expects to pick a lead candidate for its protein C program in the first half of this year, with the goal of starting a Phase I trial in 2013.

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