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IP vs. Know-How: in RNAi, the Battle Is Joined

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Which is better: patents on the fundamental science for creating a new class of drugs--or the know-how for making drugs based on the idea? In one of the few bright areas of discovery-based biotech, RNA interference (RNAi), the battle between the two philosophical positions has been joined as an investor group has beaten Alnylam, the IP leader in RNAi, to the control of Ribozyme Pharmaceutical's RNA chemistry know-how.

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Novartis AG has led a handful of Big Pharma into the potential new therapeutic modality of RNAi. Here we review those early moves in this nascent field, and take a look at which of the industry's big players has got game in RNAi. Sidebar to "Big Pharma's Leap into Biologics: Bridging both Scientific and Cultural Gaps"

In RNAi, Technology Proliferates Beyond the Big Two

If 2006 was a breakout year for RNAi the concept, then 2007 could be a breakout year for RNAi drug development itself. In the past few years there has been a surge of newcomers to the space, in some cases sporting high-quality venture backers and boldfaced names in RNAi. Some companies have decided to play ball with the industry leaders, sublicensing Alnylam's IP around their chosen targets, for example; others have filed their own IP-either outside the Alnylam and Merck umbrellas or putting them on a relatively slow-motion collision course with the two power brokers; still others have argued that patenting novel delivery technologies will provide them with the necessary edge in licensing negotiations, should they come about, or with pharmaceutical partners.

In RNAi, Technology Proliferates Beyond the Big Two

If 2006 was a breakout year for RNAi the concept, then 2007 could be a breakout year for RNAi drug development itself. In the past few years there has been a surge of newcomers to the space, in some cases sporting high-quality venture backers and boldfaced names in RNAi. Some companies have decided to play ball with the industry leaders, sublicensing Alnylam's IP around their chosen targets, for example; others have filed their own IP-either outside the Alnylam and Merck umbrellas or putting them on a relatively slow-motion collision course with the two power brokers; still others have argued that patenting novel delivery technologies will provide them with the necessary edge in licensing negotiations, should they come about, or with pharmaceutical partners.

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