Silence inks delivery deal for microRNA cancer drug from Down Under

Silence Therapeutics has found another partnership focused on the U.K. biotech's technologies for delivering microRNA drugs. Australian developer MiReven has tapped Silence's tech for a potential anti-cancer drug based on miR-7, which is believed to knock out a major culprit in cancer progression known as epidermal growth factor receptor. 

Several companies have latched on to Silence's delivery technologies to overcome the difficulty of delivering RNA drugs to tissues deep in the body--which has been a bottleneck in advancing the gene-silencing therapies over the past decade. And the delivery deals offer Silence--which is collecting an undisclosed fee for its formulation and testing work with MiReven--a source of revenue as the company nurtures its own RNA-interference pipeline, including its lead gene-silencing candidate Atu027 in Phase I testing for patients with solid tumors.

MiReven now has a lot riding on Silence's delivery tools, as the company was formed in 2010 based on studies from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research on miR-7. Nucleic acid-based drugs can target microRNAs with the potential of impacting the expression of multiple disease-related genes, earning them the "master switch" moniker. Silence will apply its lipid-based platforms to formulate drugs that mimic the miR-7 molecule and evaluate them in cancer models. Without delivery tech, microRNA drugs don't stand a chance to effectively hit important cancer targets.

"This is the fourth collaboration that we have recently signed to explore the use of Silence's delivery technologies for microRNAs," Klaus Giese, Silence's chief scientist, said in a statement. "[While] we remain internally focused on the delivery of our siRNA therapies, we continue to broaden the potential value of our proprietary delivery systems by collaborating with partners."

Silence has previously landed partnership deals with AstraZeneca ($AZN), Pfizer ($PFE)/Quark and other major drugmakers exploring the potential of RNA drugs. And the biotech inked two previous microRNA delivery deals with MiRagen and Mirna. The microRNA field has generated headlines over the past week, with microRNA specialist Regulus Therapeutics filing last week for a proposed IPO of up to $57.5 million, on the heels of the San Diego-based biotech's collaborations with AstraZeneca and Biogen Idec ($BIIB).

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