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    Alnylam, Genzyme form alliance

    Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Genzyme, both of Cambridge, said Monday that they have formed an exclusive alliance to develop and commercialize RNAi therapeutics for the treatment of transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis, or ATTR, in Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries.

    ATTR is a rare, debilitating, hereditary disease that damages the nervous system and heart, resulting in a life expectancy of 5 to 15 years.

    Under the terms of the agreement that also includes development milestone payments and tiered royalties, Genzyme will make an upfront cash payment of $22.5 million to Alnylam, the two companies said in a press ­release.

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    In a statement, Alnylam chief executive John Maraganore said: “In this important collaboration, Genzyme will advance our ALN-TTR program with their proven capabilities in the Japanese and broader Asian market, while we maintain our plans to develop and commercialize this potential breakthrough medicine in the US, Europe, and rest of world.”

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    Alnylam is focused on RNA interference, or RNAi, which seeks to use an understanding of how genes are turned on and off in cells in a way that can affect diseases.

    Genzyme is now a unit of French drug maker Sanofi SA.

    Chris Reidy

    Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.