Silence Therapeutics PLC (LON:SLN, NASDAQ:SLN) has completed its search for a chief executive by appointing industry veteran Mark Rothera to the role.
It means Iain Ross, who stepped in to take day-to-day control of the business last December, will return to his former role as non-executive chairman.
Rothera, meanwhile, brings with him 30-years’ experience in the biopharmaceutical sector, latterly with Orchard Therapeutics where he secured US$600mln of financing and grew the business to a US$1.7bn market capitalisation at its peak.
Prior to Orchard, he was chief commercial officer of PTC Therapeutics, global president of Aegerion Pharmaceuticals and vice president and general manager of commercial operations at Shire Human Genetic Therapies for Europe, Middle East and Africa. With an MA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge, Rothera completed his MBA at INSEAD.
“Following a thorough search, Mark's appointment reflects his proven leadership skills and strong track record in growing successful biotechnology companies and building shareholder value,” Silence chairman Ross said in a statement.
“I believe he will now provide the leadership necessary to grow Silence into a leading international biotechnology company built upon our innovative siRNA technology platform, proprietary product pipeline and validating industry partnerships.”
The appointment was announced alongside the gene silencing specialist’s interim results, which charted a period of significant progress.
Key among the landmarks was a deal with AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) to develop as many as 10 small interfering RNA (siRNA) drug targets in the cardiovascular, renal, metabolic and respiratory diseases areas.
It resulted in an upfront cash payment of US$60mln and a direct equity investment of US$20mln, which could be followed by potential milestones of US$400mln per target.
As a result, Silence ended the six months to June 30, 2020, in rude financial health with just over US$64.1mln (£50mln) in the bank.
Like any company whose focus is research and development, it was loss-making – to the tune of US$14.1mln (£11mln) in the first half.
Silence said it “continued to advance” its fully-owned drug candidates SLN360 and SLN124, respectively for cardiovascular disease and beta-thalassaemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.
SLN360 has received US regulatory sign-off in August to kick-off clinical trials.
As well as its deal with AstraZeneca, Silence also has collaborations with Japan's Takeda and New York-listed Mallinckrodt.