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Speaking to Investors, Sirna Offers a Quick Peek into its Business Playbook


Stepping before the investment community at the UBS Warburg Conference in New York this week, Howard Robin, president and CEO of Sirna, touted the company’s strong cash position and technical experience with RNA.

Robin noted that, between an April private placement of $48 million of stock and warrants and a $5 million rights offering in July, Sirna has raised $53 million this year. As of June 30, the company — which burns about $1.5 million a month — had about $43.8 million in cash, cash equivalents, and securities for sale.

The science behind the company’s modified siRNAs, which Sirna CSO Nassim Usman made the centerpiece of a talk to a largely scientific audience at the Nucleic Acid World Summit in Boston last week, was watered down a bit in Robin’s 25-minute presentation. But Robin did offer a few tidbits that provide insights into the company’s business strategy.

He said that Sirna remains on-track to select at least one drug candidate from its two lead programs (age-related macular degeneration and hepatitis C) for phase I testing next year, but noted that the company is planning to partner out one of those products.

“Young companies do well when they partner” with their larger peers, he told RNAi News on the sidelines of the conference. And while Sirna, which first started up around a decade ago, is hardly wet behind the ears, Robin said that RNAi itself is so new that all companies in the sector could be considered young.

He declined to say which program would be partnered out, adding that it depends on “how quickly we can get something forward [in development] and the needs of the partner.” Currently, Sirna’s AMD program is the most developed, likely to be in human testing before any hepatitis C therapy.

Sirna is also conducting work on its various other preclinical drug candidates, “and we want to expand our pipeline to include areas of oncology, to include inflammation, [and] metabolic disease,” Robin said in his presentation. “We have already made siRNAs over the last two years against over 50 targets … We’ve made those siRNAs, we’ve done the cell culture experiments, we’ve demonstrated efficacy in cell culture with those siRNAs, and we’ve filed the IP on those siRNAs.”

The company is hoping to be able to pin down a third disease area in which it will be developing a new clinical candidate sometime over the coming year, Robin told RNAi News, although he stressed that this ambitious timeline is not at all definite, and it remains entirely unclear what that third indication will be.

Robin did, however, note during a breakout session following his formal presentation that Sirna sees many opportunities in metabolic diseases and cancer, at one point mentioning the company’s work and IP surrounding telomerase inhibition.

But whether these comments portend the direction Sirna plans to take is a matter of pure speculation; even under direct questioning from investors and the media alike, Robin declined to provide specifics, given that these details have not been made public.

— DM


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