Roche, Alnylam Team Up on RNAi Research

Alnylam shares soar 50% on news of the billion-dollar deal.
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Alnylam

(ALNY) - Get Report

shot up more than 50% Monday morning after the biotech company announced an alliance with

Roche

for RNAi therapeutics.

The duo said they will cover four therapeutic areas: oncology, respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases and certain liver diseases and will work together on RNAi (RNA interference) drug discovery for one or more disease targets in those areas. RNAi is a method of turning off genes or gene silencing, which has the potential to prevent disease-causing proteins from being made.

As part of the deal, Swiss-based Roche will acquire Alnylam's European research site with 40 employees in Kulmback Germany. In return, Roche is paying Alnylam $331 million in upfront payments and equity investments, which includes 1.975 million shares of Alnylam common stock at $21.50 a share, and also development and commercialization milestones and sales royalties should products advance. The companies said the team-up has a potential value of more than $1 billion.

This deal is the most recent in a string of RNAi partnerships in which large pharmaceuticals partner with small biotech names in the space.

Astra Zeneca

(AZN) - Get Report

last week teamed up in a research and development deal with

Silence Therapeutics

, and

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

last year acquired Sirna Therapeutics.

"Working together with Alnylam provides us with new capabilities to target complex diseases within our focus areas. Our mission is to find novel solutions for patients who suffer from difficult to treat diseases and we will be fully committed to this goal, together with our new colleagues located at the acquired site in Kulmbach," said Lee Babiss, head of Roche Global Pharma Research.

Alnylam climbed $7.69 to $22.89 in recent trading Monday morning.