Silence Therapeutics’ chairman Iain Ross has sent out letters to the company’s shareholders to address snowballing concern over the state of its battered stock, which has dropped close to 50% in value over the past six months.

In an attempt to reassure shareholders, Ross explained the catalysts for the steady fall in share price as “inaccurate reports” about the firm and an unsteady financial market, coupled with a relatively quiet time on the news front.

To allay fears over the strength of the group’s intellectual portfolio, he underscored its importance to future success and insisted that the company has “freedom-to-operate”. And offering a taster of what can be expected during 2009, in the hope that it may help to re-ignite investor enthusiasm, Ross confirmed the group is in talks with several parties over potential research and/or licensing deals.

Silence focuses on RNA interference technology, which, it says, has the potential to “fundamentally change the way in which new pharmaceutical therapies are identified and developed”. RNAi is a naturally occurring mechanism within cells and potentially forms the basis for a new class of therapeutic products that can selectively silence genes within the cell, opening the door to a whole new range of potential therapies for previously untreatable diseases.

According to Ross, the company made “significant progress” in developing its pipeline of siRNA molecules last year, through its own internal programmes and in partnership with Quark, Pfizer and AstraZeneca. The £200-million deal with AstraZeneca it signed last year was a major boon for the firm, and will see the firms attempt to develop siRNA molecules against up to five targets provided by the drug giant, primarily in the respiratory field.

Enhancing value
Ross concluded by stating that the group has “fundamentally strengthened” the technology base, progressed development of its internal siRNA product pipeline, progressed its intellectual property position, and established and progressed several partnerships and collaborations. Furthermore, he stressed that Silence remains committed to enhancing shareholder value further over the next 12 months.

But the move failed to excite investors, and Silence’s share price dipped again, by aroudnd 1.5 pence, on the day of the announcement.