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Silence Therapeutics Begins Phase I Trial of Cancer Rx, Posts Higher '08 Losses

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Silence Therapeutics last month announced that it had begun dosing patients in a phase I study of its siRNA-based solid tumor drug Atu-027.

Separately last month, the British company also reported its financial results for 2008, posting a 45 percent increase in its net loss on lower revenues and higher costs.

Atu-027 comprises modified, blunt-ended siRNA that target PKN-3, a protein kinase that company researchers have linked to tumor growth and metastases, and formulated with a mixture of cationic and fusogenic lipids.

The open-label phase I study will test single and repeated intravenous doses of the drug in patients with advanced solid tumors. The study is expected to take about 18 months to complete, according to Silence.

Silence reported that during 2008 research and development spending rose nearly 40 percent to £6.71 million ($10.7 million), in part due to preparations to move Atu-027 into human testing.

Administrative costs, meanwhile, fell to £3.29 million from £4.99 million, although this decrease was essentially offset by a £1.8 million drop in yearly revenues to £2.2 million.

Silence's net loss for 2008 jumped to £7.4 million, or 6.2p per share, from £5.1 million, or 4.39p per share, a year earlier. As of Dec. 31, 2008, the company had cash and cash equivalents totaling £3.3 million.

This cash position was increased to £6 million following a £2.65 million investment by institutional investors earlier this year.

In the company's annual report, Silence Chairman Iain Ross said that the company has enough resources to fund its operations "well into 2010," and that it is pursuing "cash-generating" deals, including partnering and licensing transactions.

He added that although Silence's board "shares the frustration of shareholders that we have not been able to deliver [new] … deals," it remains "confident that we are well-positioned to conclude … non-dilutive collaboration deals during 2009."

In mid-2007, Silence inked a three-year collaboration with AstraZeneca to develop siRNA drugs against five undisclosed targets, including three related to respiratory diseases (see RNAi News, 7/12/2007).

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