AstraZeneca-partnered RNA player Silence plans Nasdaq listing

Nasdaq
Silence Therapeutics' stock has risen more than 600% in London over the past year. (Nasdaq)

Silence Therapeutics has outlined plans to list its stock on Nasdaq, giving it access to U.S. investors to support the progress of its internal and AstraZeneca-partnered RNA therapeutics.

London-based Silence has traded on the stock exchange in its home city since the 1990s, when it was called Stanford Rook Holdings and focused on an immunotherapy treatment for tuberculosis. The modern version of Silence emerged around a decade later, after late-phase failures while called Stanford and SR Pharma led the biotech to pivot to RNA by acquiring Atugen and Intradigm. 

Silence has played a minor role in the rise of RNA therapeutics to date, securing a small, time-limited cut of European sales of Alnylam’s pioneering Onpattro without ever seriously threatening to get one of its own drugs to market. 

The biotech remains a long way from the market, with its two lead assets due to enter the clinic this year, but it has attracted the interest of investors and industry over the past year. Part way through a 12-month period in which Silence’s stock rose more than 600%, AstraZeneca struck a deal to work with the biotech on five targets over the next three years.

Silence now plans to give U.S. investors a chance to get on board. In a statement, Silence said it plans to confidentially file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to list shares on the Nasdaq. The biotech does not plan to issue new securities. 

The Nasdaq listing, which ex-GlaxoSmithKline staffer Rob Quinn, Ph.D., will oversee, will give Silence a way to raise cash to support further development of its programs. Silence ended March with £41 million ($50 million) and a guaranteed $60 million from AstraZeneca on the horizon. 

Silence will use the money to get SLN360, a cardiovascular therapy, and SLN124, a beta-thalassaemia prospect, into the clinic. Despite COVID-19, Silence expects to get the studies started this year as planned.

Iain Ross will oversee the progress of the lead assets. Silence disclosed the appointment of Ross as executive chairman one morning in December, telling investors he would work alongside CEO David Horn Solomon. By the afternoon, Solomon had resigned, leaving Ross in charge. Silence disclosed the appointment and departure on the same day as news of a bankruptcy motion against Solomon.

Silence is still looking for a CEO to replace Solomon, telling investors its external search will continue until the “optimal” candidate is found. Ross is serving as executive chairman full time to prevent the lack of a CEO from derailing Silence. 

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