Silence Therapeutics is making a lot of noise these days when it comes to taking advantage of key IP and partnerships in the London-based company's RNA interference (RNAi) technology.
The latest is a one-year extension of ongoing research with AstraZeneca. The two companies have worked together since 2007 to identify five novel short-interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules for respiratory and oncology applications.
RNAi made a big splash when it was discovered a dozen years ago because of its potential to "silence" genes that cause cancers. The approach takes strands of genetic code and program them to find the gene responsible for a deadly condition, and then shuts it up. Many forms of cancer are caused by genes gone haywire. The ability to silence and regulate problem genes selectively through siRNA could provide a means to treat a wide range of human diseases. It has taken the intervening 12 years to develop RNAi therapeutics and to find a way of effectively delivering it to the right spot.
Silence CEO Philip Haworth, in a prepared statement, said he considers the AstraZeneca partnership to be another "strong endorsement of our technology."
Separately, Haworth has said that he expects large biotech and pharmaceutical companies to come knocking on Silence's door in search of licensing deals and partnerships. In an excellent article by Doug Macron of Gene Silencing News, Haworth cites two reasons for his optimism. First, the RNAi drug-delivery technology Silence acquired when it merged recently with Intradigm, whose AtuPLEX liposomal formulation of siRNAs are integral to Silence's cancer drug Atu027 currently undergoing Phase I trials. The second reason? Twelve words: "Methods and Compositions for Enhancing the Efficacy and Specificity of RNA Silencing." That's recently granted U.S. Patent No. 7,750,144, which enhances "the efficacy and specificity of RNA silencing." Haworth tells Gene Silencing News that this key patent "is going to prove to be a very significant IP asset, not just for Silence but for the space, in general."