A billion-dollar lesson in RNAi economics


Roche's billion-dollar deal for gene-silencing technology (below) underscores once again what a hot commodity RNAi tech has become. And prices are rocketing up fast. Merck paid $1.1 billion to buy Sirna, leaving CytRx and Alnylam in an incredibly influential position to dictate prices. A nonexclusive deal like Roche's shows just how influential that position has become. The reason for all the positive attention, of course, is that gene silencing is shaping up as a game changer in healthcare. For an outside observer, the premiums in this field are looking stratospheric. But big bets in biotech can be rewarded with even bigger global markets. With a wide variety of diseases triggered by the activity of specific genes, a mechanism to turn them off is worth every bit of the Nobel Prize handed out for the basic research last year. Barring a significant stumble in R&D, look for new work in the field to grow aggressively. And don't expect the buy-in price to go down anytime soon. - John Carroll