Singapore-Based Aslan Pharma Raises $22M Series B for Gastric Cancer Clinical TrialsOctober 11, 2013
Singapore-Based Aslan Pharma Raises $22M Series B for Gastric Cancer Clinical Trials
By Brian Gormley
11 October 2013 – 01:42
(c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Singapore-based Aslan Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd. has raised $22 million to fund mid-stage clinical studies of a treatment for stomach cancer, an especially large health concern in East Asia.
The incidence of stomach cancer is highest in East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and in South America, according to World Cancer Research Fund International. The disease, whose causes include the bacterium H. pylori, often doesn’t cause symptoms early on. As a result, many cases are diagnosed after the cancer has advanced. Patients with locally advanced, metastatic and recurrent disease have an overall median survival of about 11 months, according to Aslan.
Existing treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The Genentech antibody Herceptin is also approved for metastatic stomach-cancer patients whose tumors overexpress the HER2 receptor.
Aslan recently saw promising results from a Phase II study of its gastric-cancer therapy, Aslan001. The drug, a small-molecule, pan-HER inhibitor, reduced cell proliferation and cell survival in gastric tumors that were either co-expressing EGFR and HER2 or were HER2 amplified. The drug could augment or even supersede Herceptin in patients with tumors that overexpress HER2, according to Aslan.
The new financing will fund Phase IIb studies of the drug, which Aslan licensed from publicly held Array BioPharma Inc. in 2011. The company also plans to explore other indications for the product.
New investor Cenova Ventures led the round, which also included new investors Morningside Group and XinChen Ventures and existing investors BioVeda Capital and Sagamore Bioventures. Its valuation wasn’t revealed in a press release. The company also plans to use the financing to acquire additional drugs.
Other companies advancing gastric-cancer treatments include Five Prime Therapeutics Inc., a venture-backed company that went public in September . The company’s pipeline includes FPA144, a monoclonal antibody aimed at fibroblast growth factor receptor 2b. Gastric-cancer patients who have tumors that express high levels of FGFR2b have significantly lower survival rates than those whose tumors express lower levels of the receptor, according to Five Prime.
Gastric cancer isn’t as large a threat in the U.S. as it is in Asian nations such as Japan. In the U.S., stomach cancer will be diagnosed in 21,600 people this year, according to National Cancer Institute estimates. By contrast, small-cell and non-small cell lung cancer will be identified in 228,190 Americans in 2013, according to the NCI.
Other Aslan other products include Aslan002, a cMET inhibitor licensed from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., and Aslan003, an inhibitor of the DHODH enzyme licensed from Almirall S.A.
Write to Brian Gormley at email@example.com