Close to 5 years after Bristol-Myers Squibb farmed out the c-MET inhibitor BMS-777607 to Singapore-based Aslan, the Big Biotech has seen enough early-stage data to warrant buying it back. Aslan is handing the drug along with its Pacific Rim rights for $10 million upfront and another $50 million in milestones, plus royalties.
The original deal back in 2011 was billed as a risk-sharing option: Aslan got development and regional commercialization rights for a drug that Bristol-Myers would continue to own in the rest of the world. It took awhile, but little Aslan completed a Phase I program, concluding that the drug had some real potential as demonstrated against plasma biomarkers and adding RON as a target. “Inhibition of RON resulted in suppression of plasma C-terminal telopeptide (CTX) levels, an established biomarker of osteoclast activity,” notes Aslan on its web site.
In one study in 2014, investigators concluded that the drug plus the little known mTOR inhibitor AZD8055 appeared to be particularly effective against cancer stem cells, a hot target in the oncology field.
This was Aslan’s number two drug in its small pipeline, behind its lead therapy varlitinib, a pan-HER inhibitor of EGFR now in several Phase II studies.
A lot has changed at Bristol-Myers since it did its original deal with Aslan. Checkpoint inhibitors became the primary focus, as the company dived head first into immuno-oncology. It took an early lead in the checkpoint market with Opdivo, but recently encountered some fierce headwinds when its ambitious attempt to go after non-small cell lung cancer failed in Phase III.
Aslan has raised more than $100 million to date, including a $23 million round in July that was described as a “pre-IPO” fundraising. The Asian syndicate included Taiwan institutional funds, TopTaiwan, KGI VC and Ta Ya Ventures, as well as several international institutional funds, Milestone Capital, Daiwa Taiwan-Japan Biotech Fund and China Galaxy.
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