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Silence Plans $28.6M Stock Sale to Fund Expansion of Staff, Pipeline

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Silence Therapeutics this week announced that it is closing in on a much-needed financial shot in the arm, inking deals to raise £18.7 million ($28.6 million) through the private placement of 9.5 million shares to certain investors.

Additionally, the company is planning a reverse stock split under which stockholders will receive one share of the company for every 50 shares held — a move intended to improve the overall marketability of Silence’s stock.

Both transactions are contingent on shareholder approval at a general meeting on April 29.

The financing comes at a critical time for Silence, which is looking to get back on course after the loss of its third CEO in the past two years while expanding its drug pipeline beyond its sole clinical candidate, the phase I cancer drug Atu027.

As reported by Gene Silencing News last month, Silence’s recently appointed director of corporate strategy Ali Mortazavi has been hoping to find “patient investors” willing to support the company as it recruits people with expertise to shepherd Atu027 and other compounds beyond phase I (GSN 3/21/2013).

At the time, Silence had about £8 million on hand, enough to carry the firm into mid-2014, and Mortazavi conceded that plans to expand the company would require additional funds.

Should the newly announced stock placement go through, Silence will indeed be better positioned to pursue such goals, stating that it intends to use £9 million of the proceeds to build out its staff.

In terms of its research and development efforts, Silence said it remains on track to initiate a phase Ib/IIa of Atu027 in combination with the widely prescribed chemotherapeutic gemcitabine for pancreatic cancer this year. The phase I trial in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumors concluded last year.

The phase Ib portion, which is expected to run through the first quarter of 2014, will examine the safety of the drug cocktail in patients with refractory cancers, according to Silence. The phase IIa portion will look at the efficacy of the combination as a first-line therapy.

Silence estimates that this two-part study will require about £7 million.

The company said this week that it is now weighing a phase Ib/IIa trial of Atu027 for a different cancer, most likely head and neck, for the first quarter of next year. A third phase Ib/IIa trial in yet another indication, probably breast cancer, is also being considered for later in 2014, depending on the outcome of two other studies.

Silence said that it also expects to use £9 million from the private placement to advance non-cancer projects, which include Atu111 for the treatment of acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ALI/ARDS, and Atu044 for hypercholesterolemia.

Atu111 employs the company’s endothelium-targeting DACC system to deliver siRNAs against angiopoietin-2, a ligand of Tie-2 signaling that is elevated in patients who develop ALI/ARDS. Last year, the company released preclinical data showing that, in combination with antibiotics, the agent could increase the survival of mice infected with pneumonia, a cause of ALI/ARDS (GSN 9/13/2012).

Atu044 employs Silence’s DBTC delivery system, which targets liver cells, to carry siRNAs against apolipoprotein B. In mouse studies, a single dose of the drug has been shown to lower its target by 80 percent, according to Silence.

Silence also has a number of earlier-stage drugs under development, including Atu134, which uses the DACC technology to deliver siRNAs targeting CD31 as a treatment for lung cancer; Atu047, which uses DBTC to deliver siRNAs against factor VII for the prevention of blood coagulation/thrombosis; and Atu614, which comprises DBTC-formulated siRNAs against the Fas death receptor to treat acute liver injury.

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