What does Silence do?
The name provides a hint. It is a specialist in the field of gene silencing. Its technology uses RNA interference, a biological process in which RNA molecules inhibit gene expression or translation, by neutralising targeted molecules.
How it's doing
In March, Silence signed a collaboration agreement with AstraZeneca to develop novel drugs for heart, kidney,liver and lung diseases.
The deal includes an upfront payment of US $60m, US$20m in equity investment and for each of the planned targets $400m in milestones alongside high single- to low double-digit royalties.
Additionally, Silence is accelerating its SLN360 heart disease drug to lead asset status and aims to file an IND later in 2020 with interim results in mid-2021.
Silence will be responsible for taking SLN500 through pre-clinical studies and a phase I trial.
After that, Mallinckrodt will take over clinical development and responsibility for global commercialisation.
At the time, Peel Hunt commented that including the provision of rights to Mallinckrodt for two further assets in the pipeline Silence could net another $703mln in milestones for each asset.
Silence confirms those deals in August when it agreed on terms with Mallinckrodt for two additional assets from the UK firm in a deal that could ultimately be worth in excess of US$1.4bn.
Initially, however, the figures involved are more modest. The gene silencing specialist will fund all pre-clinical activity after which it will receive a US$2mln milestone payment.
In May and as part of a comprehensive shake-up the firm, Investec was brought in as its broker and nominated advisor.
Silence also said it will continue its search for the ‘optimal CEO’. In the meantime, chairman Iain Ross will perform his current role on a full-time executive basis.
Joining him on the board will be chief medical officer and head of R&D, Dr Giles Campion. He has held senior roles at a number of life sciences companies including Novartis.
What the boss says: Iain Ross, executive chairman
The Astra deal validates the company’s siRNA platform, he said.
“It not only provides us with an opportunity to collaborate on specific liver expressed gene targets but also to work with a leading company to achieve targeted delivery of siRNA molecules to other tissues including heart, kidney and lung."
What the market says: Edison Research
"We have increased our valuation to £462m or 559p per basic share, from £345m or 440p per basic share.
"This is driven by the addition of the AstraZeneca deal metrics and its associated cash injections to our models (total £74m value uplift), an increase in the valuation of SLN360 to £167m from £112m and offset by the delay to SLN124 (£129m from £141m)."
Big pharma money is flowing into RNAi therapies with Roche agreeing in October to license Dicerna Pharmaceuticals hepatitis B therapy for $200mln upfront and $1.5bn in milestones while Johnson & Johnson has invested in a rival treatment for the same disease.
“These RNAi deals signal a marked appetite for Pharma to partner early on RNAi assets, with sizeable upfront milestones,” said Peel Hunt.