RNAi therapeutics specialist Alnylam Pharmaceuticals is to cut its workforce by a third as part of its transformation from being a platform company to becoming one with actual products.

Alnylam is reducing its staff by 33% (at the end of the third quarter it had 171 employees) to align resources to focus on its "highest value opportunities with accelerated clinical development plans". In particular, the company is looking to advance a treatment for transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis and one for haemophilia, both of which are at early stages of development.

The moves are part of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm's '5x15' programme, ie getting five treatments into the clinic by the end of 2015. Chief executive John Maraganore said "we have made remarkable progress in advancing RNAi therapeutics as a new class of innovative medicines" but "now is the time to focus our near-term efforts and resources" on the two programmes mentioned up.

He went on to say that Alnylam will also be pushing on with other pipeline programmes through existing alliances (with the likes of Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda) "and new partnerships that we aim to form in the future". The restructuring is "a very difficult decision to make", Mr Maraganore added, "but we are convinced that it is an important step in continuing to build our company for the long term".

The job losses will result in a saving of $20 million in cash for 2012 and one-time restructuring costs of $4 million. The company recently increased its year-end 2011 cash guidance to $260 million.

The latest round of job cuts follows a 25%-30% reduction in the workforce announced in September 2010 after a collaboration with Novartis ended.