A Medical Device Daily

Medtronic (Minneapolis) and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (Cambridge, Massachusetts), a therapeutics company focused on RNA interference (RNAi) technology, reported that they will collaborate to pursue potential therapies designed to treat such neurodegenerative disorders as Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

The collaboration will focus on developing novel drug/ device combinations incorporating RNAi therapeutics, a technique for silencing targeted genes in a cell, thus inhibiting their ability to produce particular proteins involved in specific diseases. Initial development will focus on delivering RNAi therapeutics to specific areas of the brain using novel infusion systems, the two companies said.

After completion of a joint technology program and a joint decision to continue product development, Medtronic will make an initial equity investment in Alnylam and could make additional investments upon successful completion of certain pre-defined milestones, it said.

Alnylam would then be eligible to receive additional cash milestone payments for each product developed and royalties on sales of any RNAi therapeutic component of drug/ device combinations that result.

Alnylam will be responsible for the discovery and early development of candidate RNAi therapeutics, while Medtronic will be responsible for late-stage development and commercialization of any resultant drug/device products.

Medtronic also will be responsible for adapting or developing the medical devices used to deliver the candidate RNAi therapeutics to targeted locations in the nervous system.

Stephen Oesterle, MD, senior vice president, medicine and technology, at Medtronic, said, “We have proven expertise in delivering targeted therapies throughout the body, while Alnylam brings leadership in the evolving science of RNAi technology. Together, we are well-positioned to explore drug/device combinations“ for improved neurogenerative disease treatment.

John Maraganore, PhD, president and CEO of Alnylam, termed the pact with Medtronic “one of the new collaborations that Alnylam expects to form in 2005,“ and provides a “major boost to RNAi R&D.“

RNAi is a naturally occurring mechanism within cells for selectively silencing and regulating specific genes, and its development is expected to lead to new disease treatments.

The discovery of RNAi has been heralded by many as a major breakthrough, and the journal Science named RNAi the top scientific achievement of 2002, as well as one of the top 10 scientific advances of 2003.

Alnylam terms itself the “world's first company focused on RNAi therapeutics“ and that its leadership in the field is supported by its strengths in “fundamental patents, technology and know-how that underlie the commercialization of RNAi therapeutics.“

The company's pipeline includes Direct RNAi to treat ocular, central nervous system, and respiratory diseases and Systemic RNAi to treat cancer and metabolic and autoimmune diseases.

U.S. distribution rights go to Zimmer

Zimmer Holdings (Warsaw, Indiana), a worldwide leader in the orthopedics industry, said it has acquired U.S. distribution rights for the Palacos line of bone cement products manufactured by Heraeus Kulzer (Hanau, Germany), a producer of orthopedic bone cement products and other healthcare technologies.

The Palacos line is a recognized market leader in cemented orthopedic surgical procedures, Zimmer said. Under the new distribution agreement, it expects to begin selling Palacos and other Heraeus Kulzer bone cements in 2Q05 following an introduction at this month's American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting in Washington, and will become the exclusive U.S. distributor for these products in January 2006.