Washington Editor

Sirna Therapeutics Inc. bolstered its bank account with a $45 million financing that closed Wednesday.

The San Francisco-based firm sold 9 million shares at $5 apiece in the public offering, which originally was planned for a million fewer shares. Sirna, which placed the stock pursuant to an effective shelf registration statement, also granted the deal's underwriters a 30-day, about 1.4 million-share overallotment option.

Company representatives could not be reached for comment, but a filing with the SEC indicated that net proceeds are expected to total about $41.1 million, or $47.4 million if the overallotment option is exercised in full. The company plans to use the funds for general corporate purposes, including research and development and clinical trial expenses and potential in-licensing of intellectual property and technology.

On the product development front, Sirna expects its lead compound, Sirna-027, to move into Phase II testing later this year for wet age-related macular degeneration. That product, which targets the vascular endothelial growth factor pathway, is partnered with Allergan Inc., as are other siRNAs for ophthalmic diseases.

Preliminary Phase I results demonstrated Sirna-027's efficacy, with 25 of 26 patients exhibiting visual acuity stabilization, eight weeks after a single injection. Also, six of them experienced a clinically significant improvement in visual acuity - at least a three-line improvement as measured on an eye chart. In addition, there was a decrease in the thickness of the back of the eye, and the compound was safe and well tolerated.

Irvine, Calif.-based Allergan is footing the bill for Sirna-027's continued development per terms of the deal, which included a $5 million up-front payment and could be worth more than $245 million with milestone payments. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 30, 2005.)

In addition, Sirna has selected a clinical compound for hepatitis C virus, Sirna-034, which is expected to enter Phase I testing by the end of the year. In preclinical testing in rodents and non-human primates, the compound suppressed viral levels by more than 99.9 percent.

Longer term, the company is moving forward in concert with GlaxoSmithKline plc to develop siRNA compounds for respiratory diseases in an exclusive, multiyear alliance. Already, Sirna has unveiled early programs in asthma and RSV infection as part of the collaboration, and the partners also plan to pursue RNAi-based therapeutics against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and allergic rhinitis.

That deal, potentially worth more than $700 million, provided Sirna a $12 million up-front payment earlier this year. The London pharmaceutical giant is assuming all further preclinical and clinical development costs, and eventually will be responsible for the worldwide commercialization of resulting products. (See BioWorld Today, April 4, 2006.)

Earlier-stage research efforts at Sirna are focused on Huntington's disease, Type II diabetes and dermatology.

The company had about 62.3 million shares outstanding as of March 31, as well as $53.6 million in cash and marketable securities; it posted an $8 million loss in the preceding quarter.

The offering's joint book-running managers include UBS Investment Bank and JP Morgan Securities Inc., both of New York. Co-managers include CIBC World Markets, of New York, Leerink Swann & Co., of Boston, and Brean Murray, Carret & Co., of New York.

On Wednesday, Sirna's stock (NASDAQ:RNAI) dipped 13 cents to close at $5.

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