BMS buys back early oncology rights from Asia partner


Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) was aiming for a “creative” development approach to help it develop and commercialize a small-molecule dual inhibitor of the cMET receptor tyrosine kinase and RON immune checkpoint to treat solid tumors. It outlicensed the candidate, BMS-777607, to Asia-focused Aslan Pharmaceutical in 2011 to that aim.

But now--almost 5 years later--the pair hasn’t made much progress. BMS-777607 (ASLAN002) has completed a Phase I trial in which it was shown to be safe--and it demonstrated inhibition of RON that was reflected in plasma activity biomarkers.

Still, Bristol-Myers is buying back BMS-777607. It will pay an upfront of $10 million, along with potential development and regulatory milestones of more than $50 million. Aslan will also stand to receive royalties on worldwide sales.

Aslan was founded in 2010 and has since raised about $100 million with the intention of in-licensing preclinical and early clinical candidates from pharmas in oncology, respiratory and inflammation disease indications.

The original deal had given Aslan exclusive rights to develop and commercialize BMS-777607 in China, Australia, Korea, Taiwan and some other Asian countries. The goal had been to get through clinical proof-of-concept under a program run and funded by Aslan that would start by targeting gastric cancer and lung cancer.

Singapore-based Aslan, which raised $23 million from Asian investors in June ahead of an anticipated IPO, is working to position this as a win.

“The acquisition of ASLAN002 by Bristol-Myers Squibb supports Aslan’s strategy to in-license investigational programmes and apply the unique development expertise of our team to accelerate the generation of high-quality data and significantly increase the value of a programme,” said Aslan CEO Dr. Carl Firth in a statement. “The commercial terms of the agreement further strengthen Aslan’s financial position following the closing of our recent financing rounds; we are in a very strong position to continue to build our proprietary pipeline of novel clinical programmes.”

Aslan’s two most advanced candidates are in Phase II testing: varlitinib, a pan-HER inhibitor in development in cholangiocarcinoma, gastric and breast cancers that’s in-licensed from Array Biopharma ($ARRY), and ASLAN002, a RON and MET inhibitor being developed for gastric and breast cancers.

- here is the release

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