SingaporeASLAN Pharmaceuticals (ASLAN), a biotech company focused on the development of immunotherapies and targeted agents for Asia-prevalent tumour types, has announced the licensing of a novel immuno-oncology antibody, targeting RON (Recepteur d’Origine Nantais), from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) which ASLAN will develop and commercialize worldwide.

RON is a receptor tyrosine kinase, and an overexpression of RON leads to increased tumour metastasis. Consequently, RON activation in tumour cells promotes aggressive disease.

The RON antibody licensed by ASLAN was developed by A*STAR’s p53 Laboratory and is currently in preclinical development. The antibody has demonstrated preclinical efficacy in a range of in vivo models of human cancer. Under the terms of the agreement, ASLAN will gain global rights to develop the RON antibody and intends to commence clinical studies in 2018.  Commercial terms were not disclosed.

To further advance the project towards clinical trials, ASLAN and A*STAR have also entered a 3-year research collaboration. ASLAN will be responsible for the design of innovative clinical development programmes, in close collaboration with A*STAR’s p53 Laboratory, which will continue to be responsible for the preclinical development of the antibody assets.

During the last 5 years, ASLAN has been collaborating with international experts in the research of RON biology and this partnership with A*STAR will further consolidate ASLAN’s clinical development skills and expertise in immunotherapies.

Commenting on the collaboration, Dr Mark McHale, Chief Operating Officer of ASLAN Pharmaceuticals, said: “This agreement with A*STAR, one of the region’s leading research organizations, enables ASLAN to leverage its capabilities in the development of biologics as we focus on building a sustainable pipeline of proprietary therapeutics.  As a leading Singapore biotech, we are excited to advance a Singapore-discovered technology with the potential to change the treatment paradigm of Asia prevalent cancers.”

Professor Sir David Lane, Chief Scientist of A*STAR and Director of the p53 Laboratory, said: “We are pleased to accelerate the development of this novel agent with ASLAN and to leverage the team’s expertise in advancing clinical programmes. This will pave the way for better treatment of cancers that are common in Asia, and which will eventually improve lives in Singapore and beyond. This collaboration is also a testament to A*STAR’s mission to support the local biotech ecosystem, and will strengthen local research capabilities in this area.”