AstraZeneca and Silence Therapeutics have agreed to a one-year extension of their pact to develop the latter’s technologies into new and enhanced approaches for delivering small interfering RNA-based therapeutics.

While financial details of the new deal have not been revealed, both companies will keep hold of the right to commercialise any novel delivery solutions - leveraging Silence’s proprietary lipid delivery and targeting technologies - that are churned out by the collaboration.

RNAi is a naturally occurring mechanism within cells that could potentially form the foundations of a new class of therapeutic products able to selectively ‘silence’ genes within the cell, since many diseases are caused by genes defecting from their normal roles.

However, there are still significant challenges – including various biological barriers – to delivering siRNA to targets safely and effectively, and the firms are hoping to create novel solutions to address this issue and help the field reach its therapeutic potential.

“The safe and effective delivery of RNAi therapeutics remains one of the key challenges in this emerging space and we are excited to be working hand in hand with a partner of AstraZeneca’s stature to achieve this goal,” said Silence’s chief executive Philip Haworth.

The deal is completely separate to that signed by the companies in 2007 to develop siRNA molecules against up to five targets provided by AstraZeneca, primarily in the respiratory field.