The issue of the US Baulcombe patent on January 17th, 2012 immediately grabbed the attention of any company involved with RNAi. The patent itself is pretty dry reading, so you may prefer to read Plant Bioscience Limited's press release which might be more digestible. For all practical intents and purposes, it covered all useful therapeutic gene silencing. The issue of this patent made successful commercialization of RNAi based drugs much more difficult. Successful commercialization following FDA approval has been fresh in investors' minds with Dendreon's (NASDAQ:DNDN) well publicized struggle with Provenge.
Though relevant to all companies in RNAi, the issue of this patent was especially important for Alnylam (NASDAQ:ALNY) - the largest pure play RNAi company. Alnylam does not own or manufacture the delivery technology being used in its pipeline, so it was especially critical that they own other aspects of IP. The posture of PBL with their patent could dramatically change the RNAi landscape. Not just for Alnylam, but for other companies as well.
Despite this patent surely catching the attention of RNAi companies, investors brushed it off or ignored it. I speculate that this was due to massive momentum building in PPS fueled by clinical results, increased coverage by analysts and new investors hopping on the Alnylam train. It may have to do with the analysts' actual coverage and strong price targets as well.
I like Alnylam's science but the coverage by analysts has been pretty poor in my opinion. Their questions in conference calls on a whole have been pretty skin deep and don't really get into the meat of the company. Further digging revealed that it might have something to do with Leerink Swann, Needham & Company, JMP Securities, Rodman & Renshaw, MLV & Co., and Chardan Capital Markets, acting as co-managers on their recent share offering. If you were not paying close attention you may have missed it. Their first press release a day earlier only mentioned J.P. Morgan Securities. Have a look at the complete list of analysts covering the stock on Alnylam's website and compare it to the list provided. Interesting at very least. It may be a contributing factor as to why you might even be reading about this patent for the first time.
For whatever the reasons behind its apparent lack of press, PLB stated recently that they intend to make the Baulcombe patent widely available. The title of the subscription only article says it all. I recommend reading it if you have a subscription. I do not wish to repost any aspects of the article but to summarize, they wish to make it non-exclusively available to as many parties as possible. This is the first clue to their posture. While it would be ideal if the patent did not exist, this is certainly good news for Alnylam and all RNAi companies. It would have been game changing if they wanted to play hardball. It will be interesting to see how a license will be structured.
Keep your eyes peeled for any new developments in this area.