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Silence Therapeutics signs siRNA R&D collaboration with AZ

UK-based Silence Therapeutics has signed an R&D collaboration agreement with AstraZeneca in the respiratory therapeutic area

UK-based Silence Therapeutics has signed an R&D collaboration agreement with Anglo/ Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (AZ) in the respiratory therapeutic area.

Silence will receive initial access fees, clinical development and commercial milestone payments of up to GBP 200m (USD 400m) plus royalties on product sales. The agreement is mainly focused on the respiratory area, but includes an option to permit targets which extend the collaboration into other disease areas of interest to AZ.

The three-year collaboration involves the discovery and development of proprietary siRNA molecules compared with up to five specific targets provided by AZ. Silence and AZ will jointly collaborate in the early phase of identification and optimisation of novel siRNA molecules.AZ will retain full responsibility for the clinical development and commercialisation.

Silence will furnish AZ with a license to its proprietary siRNA technology in return for an initial access fee of GBP 7.5m (USD 15m), consisting of a payment of GBP 2.5m (USD 5m), as well as an equity investment of GBP 5m (USD 10m).

The GBP 5m (USD 10m) equity investment in Silence will be at GBP 1.46 per share, which equates to a 10 per cent premium over the volume weighted average price (VWAP) for the 10 trading days prior to the close of the market on 5 July 2007. Consequently AZ will hold 2.9 per cent of the total voting rights of Silence.

Iain Ross, Chairman of Silence Therapeutics plc, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be able to announce this collaboration with AZ. The transaction provides further validation of the potential application of Silence Therapeutics' proprietary AtuRNAi molecules and our leading position in the fast developing field of RNAi therapeutics. In addition, today's agreement highlights our ability to execute collaboration deals in line with our stated corporate strategy.

Jan M Lundberg, executive vice-president of discovery research at AZ, said: "AZ strives to access new technologies that hold future promise for bringing novel medicines to patients. We are delighted to partner with Silence Therapeutics in developing its siRNA technology and build on AZ's investments made in biopharmaceutical and vaccine areas. siRNA technology will enable AZ to target disease mechanisms intractable to small molecules and other approaches."

11th July 2007

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