By John George – Senior Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal
Jun 14, 2019, 10:58am EDT Updated Jun 14, 2019, 1:33pm EDT
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a Massachusetts biopharmaceutical company that specializes in RNA interference therapeutics, is expanding its operations into Philadelphia.
“We have a small team there now,” said John Maraganore, the CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Alnylam. “There’s a lot of competition for talent up here and there is lot of [life sciences industry] talent in the tri-state area there around Philadelphia. We felt we could find a way to harness some of that talent by setting up a site there.”
Maraganore said the company has four employees at an office in University City, and he expects that number to grow to 12 to 15 by the end of the year.
“Over time, we think we will see Philadelphia becoming another core center for Alnylam,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to project how many people we could have there, but as the company grows it certainly, over time, could be a triple-digit number of employees we have in Philadelphia.”
Maraganore said going forward, when his company has positions to fill, it will give candidates the options of working in Cambridge or Philadelphia. Alnylam previously told the Boston Business Journal that it plans to reach 1,500 employees by the end of 2020.
Founded in 2012, Alnylam has grown to more than 1,200 employees globally who work out of 27 different sites in 17 countries. The company has a total of 1,000 employees in Massachusetts.
Maraganore said the company has no intention of moving its New England headquarters. Alnylam has offices in Cambridge's Kendall Square and is opening a manufacturing facility in Norton, Mass.
The company received its first Food and Drug Administration approval last year for Onpattro, an injectable therapeutic for peripheral nerve disease caused by a genetic condition known as hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis in adult patients
Last week, Alnylam completed its submission of a new drug application for a new drug candidate developed to treat acute hepatic porphyria, a family of rare genetic diseases characterized by the occurrence of attacks to the nervous system.
Both medicines incorporate RNA interference, or RNAi, a natural cellular process of gene silencing. The company’s technology harnesses the natural biological process of RNAi occurring in people’s cells to develop a new class of medicine known as RNAi therapeutics. RNAi therapeutics works by silencing targeted messenger RNA, which are genetic precursors that encode for disease-causing proteins and, as a result, prevent disease-causing proteins from being made.
The company has another 10 research programs in various stages of development targeting a variety of genetic diseases.
Alnylam generated revenues of $74.9 million in 2018, while recording a net loss of $761.5 million. The company ended 2018 with $1.13 billion in cash and cash equivalents, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Maraganore said the Philadelphia region, home to major operations for Big Pharma companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, has a lot of expertise in areas such as clinical development.
“We’ll be looking to add people in drug development, medical and regulatory affairs, biostatisticians and quality assurance professionals and market access professionals,” he said.
Chris Molineaux, the president and CEO of the Wayne-based life sciences trade organization Life Sciences Pa., said Alnylam’s expansion into Philadelphia is the most recent example of the global biotech industry "recognizing the scientific and business prowess that resides here" in the Philadelphia region.
"Alnylam is considered one of biotech’s most advanced, visionary companies in the field of RNAi and the company leadership clearly sees the rapid growth of Philadelphia as a world leader in advanced, precision therapies," Molineaux said. "The scientific talent is here and companies like Alnylam are racing to capture it."