Alnylam raises $450M, riding RNA's renaissance with eyes on M&A

Amid an industrywide re-embrace of RNA-based therapies, pioneering biotech Alnylam ($ALNY) is plotting to raise $450 million in a public offering, keeping its eye out for pipeline-building acquisitions.

The offering, managed by JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank, will fund Alnylam's sweeping goal to have three marketed products and 10 clinical-stage candidates by 2020. To get there, the company will be spending big on R&D and laying out cash to buy up businesses, technologies and products that can speed its way, Alnylam said.

The Cambridge, MA, biotech's $450 million swing comes just about a year after Sanofi ($SNY) bought a 12% stake in it for $700 million, a major affirmation of Alnylam's proprietary approach to RNAi. The company's candidates are designed to silence disease-causing genes by interfering with the body's natural messaging systems, and Alnylam expects to get 7 pipeline therapies into the clinic by the end of this year.

RNA R&D looked bleak just a few years ago after a widespread slew of setbacks discouraged the likes of Roche ($RHHBY), Merck ($MRK) and Novartis ($NVS) from their once-ambitious work in the field. But a steady stream of preclinical advances has drawn many of the players back to the table, including Roche, which has paired up with Santaris, and Merck, which this month signed a $100 million deal with RNA innovator Moderna Therapeutics.

For Alynlam, RNA's return to vogue made an ideal iron at which to strike, and the biotech is raising cash while its shares hover around an all-time high $100.

Leading Alnylam's pipeline is patisiran, a treatment for transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis in patients with familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy, which is a rare genetic defect that can lead to deadly protein buildups. That drug, partnered with Sanofi's Genzyme, is working through Phase III development. Behind its top prospect, Alnylam is at work on the Phase I hemophilia treatment ALN-AT3, plus preclinical therapies for high cholesterol, hepatits B, and a handful of rare blood diseases.

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