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Recently, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ALNY - Analyst Report) announced that it has inked a deal with Ascletis Pharmaceuticals, to develop Alnylam’s oncology candidate ALN-VSP. Ascletis Pharma is a privately-held US-China joint venture pharmaceutical company.

The strategic collaboration provides Ascletis exclusive rights to develop and commercialize ALN-VSP for treating patients suffering from liver cancers such as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in China, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Alnylam will continue to be responsible for developing and commercializing the candidate in the Rest of the World (ROW).

Per the terms of the agreement, Ascletis will move ALN-VSP into phase II studies for the HCC indication. We note that the candidate has already completed phase I studies. Further development and subsequent commercialization of ALN-VSP in Ascletis’ markets will earn Alnylam development and commercial milestones and royalties.

Even though Alnylam is responsible for ALN-VSP in ROW, the agreement permits it to use data generated by Ascletis for developing the candidate in those markets. Further financial details of the deal were not revealed.

The collaboration regarding the development of ALN-VSP is a prudent move by Alnylam since the liver cancer market in China represents an area with high unmet medical need. Consequently, the successful development and commercialization of the candidate in China would bring in substantial revenues for Alnylam.

ALN-VSP, once approved and launched, would compete with drugs such as Onyx Pharmaceuticals/Bayer’s /(BAYRY - Analyst Report) Nexavar in the liver cancer market.

Our Recommendation

We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Alnylam. The stock carries a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold rating) in the short-run.

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