Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: ALNY), a leading RNAi therapeutics company, announced today its participation in a $2.4 million research grant awarded to the University of Pennsylvania under the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”. The new grant will fund research over two years in the laboratories of Daniel Rader, M.D. of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Sekar Kathiresan, M.D. of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, and Alnylam.
The goal of this initiative is to mechanistically evaluate the metabolic and molecular effects of 38 novel genes implicated by human genetic studies in prevention of cardiovascular disease and to discover and develop RNAi therapeutics towards these gene candidates. Through an agreement with the University of Pennsylvania and MGH, Alnylam will retain the rights to develop and commercialize RNAi therapeutics from the research effort.
“We are excited to participate in this important work led by Dr. Dan Rader of the University of Pennsylvania, who is widely recognized for his outstanding work in lipid research and lipoprotein metabolism,” said Victor Kotelianski, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., Senior Vice President, Distinguished Alnylam Fellow. “We are also pleased to be collaborating in this research effort with Dr. Kathiresan of MGH, where we will be able to interrogate the findings of large-scale genome-wide association studies in cardiovascular disease, including genes associated with abnormal blood lipid levels and early onset myocardial infarction. As evidenced by our RNAi therapeutic program targeting PCSK9, cardiovascular disease remains an area of great interest for Alnylam as we believe there is significant potential for an RNAi therapeutic to make an impact in the lives of patients.”
“We are honored to be awarded this new grant as part of the NIH stimulus,” said Rader, the Cooper-McClure Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Together with my team at the University of Pennsylvania and my collaborators at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute, I am looking forward to working with Alnylam as leaders in the RNAi therapeutics field. Our knowledge of lipid disorders and their association with human disease combined with Alnylam’s expertise of development of RNAi therapeutics represents a powerful and rare opportunity to advance new innovative medicines.”
The work conducted under this grant intends to validate novel genes as targets for new therapies for lipid disorders and heart disease and will establish early proof of concept on how genetic association studies can yield important new insights into biology that have the potential to impact cardiovascular disease. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in both men and women worldwide and its incidence is highly correlated with levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Plasma concentrations of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), as well as triglycerides, have a strong inherited basis and recent genetic association studies have linked previously unsuspected genes to these complex traits.