Alnylam Inks $29M Deal With Monsanto for New Bio Tools for Farmers

Xconomy Boston — 

Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) said today it has formed a 10-year strategic alliance with St. Louis-based agricultural giant Monsanto (NYSE: MON) to develop biotech solutions for the farming industry. Under the terms of the deal, Monsanto will receive exclusive worldwide rights to Alnylam’s RNAi-based technology for agricultural use, in return for $29.2 million in upfront payments, plus milestone payments, and any royalties that may come from products that emerge from the collaboration.

Alnylam is developing several compounds using its RNAi (RNA interference) technology, which is centered around the process of turning genes on and off inside cells. Although the company is best known for its efforts to develop drugs for a number of conditions, including cancer and infectious diseases, Alnylam has been active in seeking partners who are interested in applying RNAi to other fields. “This new alliance furthers our vision for RNAi technologies across a broad range of applications and is representative of our passion to pioneer these new frontiers,” said Rachel Meyers, VP of research and RNAi lead development at Alnylam, in today’s statement.

The alliance will combine Alnylam’s expertise in RNAi with Monsanto’s BioDirect technology, an R&D initiative to find molecules in nature and develop them for use in crop protection and other applications.

Alnylam has had an up-and-down year so far. In January, the company announced it would cut a third of its workforce in an effort to save $20 million in cash this year. But there was some good news on July 16: Alnylam said its drug to treat amyloidosis, ALN-TTR02, performed well in an early-stage trial. Shares rose 40 percent that day to $19.16.

Alnylam’s shares closed yesterday at $17.74. Monsanto’s stock closed at $86.13.