Shares in Silence Therapeutics, an RNA interference specialist based in London and Berlin, have risen sharply after the company announced a placement of almost £2.7 million.

The shares have been acquired by the investment companies Gartmore, Fidelity, Insight and another European fund, priced at 18 pence each. Silence chief executive Iain Ross said that the funds will be used to finance and broaden the Company’s pre-clinical and RNAi development programmes and will allow Silence Therapeutics to execute its business plan into 2010.”

News of the funding came just as Silence announced that the European Patent Office has granted a patent for its lead product candidate, Atu027. The compound is being developed for the treatment of advanced solid cancers and is scheduled to enter clinical trials in 2009.

The patent includes claims that cover any small interfering RNA molecule or antisense oligonucleotide used for the treatment of a wide range of cancers. Mr Ross noted that “we now have patent protection for Atu027 in the two largest pharmaceutical markets – the USA and Europe. Our partners and investors can be confident that Silence can protect its technology and products.”

Silence also noted an announcement by partner Quark Pharmaceuticals that it has started Phase I/II trials on a drug for delayed graft function prevention in adult kidney transplant patients. The product incorporates Silence’s AtuRNAi technology.