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Roche Sale Stakes to be Utilized How?

The sale of Novartis’ 20-year ownership in Roche has resulted in a sizeable financial infusion, prompting conjecture about how the Swiss pharma will spend it. Another major acquisition could be on the way, with a well-known name appearing on the wish list. Bloomberg reported that Alnylam Pharmaceuticals is a prime prospective purchase target for Novartis, citing people familiar with the situation.

Novartis’ newly purchased cholesterol medicine Leqvio, also known as inclisiran, is nearing an FDA decision. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company is the developer of the RNA interference (RNAi) technology behind it. The news comes on the heels of Novo Nordisk’s announcement that it will pay $3.3 billion for clinical-stage RNAi biotech Dicerna Pharma. It also comes months after Novartis Chairman Joerg Reinhardt stated that the business was exploring entering the lucrative mRNA market. Comirnaty, an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, is now being filled and finished.

During a July conference call, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan was asked about the possibility of pursuing mRNA, and he pointed to the company’s ongoing RNAi initiatives. Narasimhan’s approach of establishing Novartis around cutting-edge platforms would allow him to acquire Alnylam. Novartis is the market leader in cell and gene therapy and radiopharmaceuticals, thanks to the acquisitions of AveXis and Endocyte. In addition, Novartis and Alnylam have a long history together.

Novartis had forged an association with Alnylam in 2005, long before the buyout of Leqvio developer The Medicines Company. However, in 2014, Big Pharma was on the verge of exiting the RNAi market due to an industry-wide exodus. Novartis highlighted issues with formulation and delivery at the time and the restricted number of relevant targets for which siRNA could be employed.

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