Merck Paid $1.1 Billion For It In 2006 — Now Sells Sirna For $25 Million Cash, Plus $150 Million In Alnylam Stock

UPDATED — 01.13.14 @ 8:19 AM EST: In just a few minutes, I’ll have a splashy NYT piece on Regeneron — to show it is not all a wash out, across the entire board — not yet at least — but in the mean-time, a very cogent anonymous comment (and commenter!) reminds us of the wider horizon here, thus.

By Anonymous:

Just an off-hand observation, isn’t this what all big Pharma is going through?

Look at what Glaxo did with Sirtris.

And I think, Roche also had a siRNA program that went ‘south.’ It seems to be the paradigm to jump on the bandwagon of some new target/platform (remember S+P with Pharmacopeia?). Then there’s the hype to the stock, the expert analysts on Wall Street pressure other purchases…… but in the end; only 1-2 become successful and the bulk fall on the wayside.

And Wall Street and the CEOs/BoD make a killing in $.

January 13, 2014 at 8:19 AM


Well, we all now know that RNAi hasn’t turned into the near term gold-mine Dr. Peter Kim once imagined it might be. That much is clear. And even four years ago halfway in to Merck’s ownership of Sirna, it turns out — we reminded that Dr. Alan Sachs was, on behalf of Whitehouse Station, trying to reduce the lofty expectations for the small molecule RNAi approach.

I’ll not belabor the point, unduly, but this “buy it for a billion — sell it for a tenth of that — only eight years later,” suggests just how difficult so-called platform R&D betting is. Here’s a bit from the WSJ reprint at the NASDAQ:

. . . .Alnylam, Cambridge, Mass., will pay Merck $175 million up front, with $25 million of that in cash and $150 million in Alnylam common stock. Merck could also receive up to $115 million in milestone payments and royalties. . . .

“We believe that the acquisition of Merck’s RNAi technologies and intellectual property will further our efforts to build a new class of medicines, advancing them to patients in need,” said Alnylam CEO John Maraganore.

Merck Research Laboratories Senior Vice President Iain D. Dukes said the sale “is consistent with our strategy to reduce emphasis on platform technologies and prioritize our R&D efforts. . . .”

Well, you are going to strike out — and do so, pretty often — if you really intend to swing for the fences, every time.

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