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"Marked appetite" for RNAi therapies bodes well for Silence Therapeutics, says Peel Hunt

In July, Silence completed a $700mln worldwide deal with Mallinckrodt for SLN500, its pre-clinical prospect which helps in ‘sensitising’ the immune system to infections, tumours and inflammatory conditions

Silence Therapeutics PLC -
Silence’s lead drug, SLN124, a galnac-siRNA conjugate, recently entered the clinic and the first patients will be dosed by the year-end

Big pharma deals for RNA interference therapies are becoming “more mainstream”, said broker Peel Hunt as it turned up the volume on Silence Therapeutics PLC (LON:SLN), which is pioneering the experimental therapy.

Known as co-suppression, post-transcriptional gene silencing and quelling, RNAi is a cellular mechanism that uses the gene's own DNA sequence of a gene to turn it off, a process that researchers call silencing.

READ: Silence Therapeutics quickly hits first research milestone under Mallinckrodt deal

The broker noted a “marked appetite” for early-stage deals in the space after Thursday’s announcement that pharma giant Roche is licensing Dicerna Pharmaceuticals RNAi therapy for hepatitis B for $200mln upfront, without even waiting to see phase 1 trial data.

Roche’s licence for ‘DCR-HBVS’, which is designed to knock down genes that get the virus into liver cells, is worth a further $1.5bn in further milestones, and sees the drugs company enter into competition with Johnson & Johnson, which last year paid US$250mln for Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals’ rival RNAi treatment for the same disease.

It is the latest in a series of big-money deals with pharma giants to take RNAi beyond lab-based research and using its capabilities to treat infectious diseases, genetic disorders, and cancer.

In July, Silence completed a $700mln worldwide deal with Mallinckrodt for SLN500, which is a pre-clinical prospect which helps in ‘sensitising’ the immune system to infections, tumours and inflammatory conditions.

Silence’s deal included upfront payments of $20mln, plus research and development funding of $10mln and potential milestones of $666m, as well as the provision of rights to Mallinckrodt for two further assets in Silence’s pipeline.

Analysts at Peel Hunt explained that “these RNAi deals signal a marked appetite for Pharma to partner early on RNAi assets, with sizeable upfront milestones,” adding that if Mallinckrodt pulls the trigger on two more programs, Silence “could net another $703 million in milestones for each asset.”

Elsewhere, Silence’s lead drug, SLN124, a galnac-siRNA conjugate, recently entered the clinic and the first patients will be dosed by the year-end.

Quick facts: Silence Therapeutics PLC

Price: 408 GBX

AIM:SLN
Market: AIM
Market Cap: £319.75 m
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Silence Therapeutics 'in a hot space with few competitors'

Silence Therapeutics' (LON:SLN) executive chair Annalisa Jenkins sat down with Proactive's Andrew Scott to discuss her strategy for taking the drug developer forward and the 'exciting opportunities' in the RNAi space. On what attracted Jenkins to join Silence, she says: ''The opportunity...

on 12/6/18

2 min read