A growing number of drug developers are embracing artificial intelligence as a tool for finding new medicines. Lantern Pharma is betting the technology can also resurrect failed cancer drugs and it is now preparing an initial public stock offering to support their development.
Lantern filed its IPO paperwork late Thursday. The Dallas-based company set a preliminary $28.8 million preliminary target for the proposed stock sale and says it has applied for a Nasdaq listing under the stock symbol “LTRN.”
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Lantern’s research aims to turn failed or abandoned drugs into new therapeutic candidates. The company says in its IPO filing that AI technology helps it find compounds best suited for such “drug rescue.”
“This data-driven, genomically-targeted and biomarker-driven approach allows us to pursue a transformational drug development strategy that identifies, rescues or develops, and advances potential small molecule drug candidates at what we believe is a fraction of the time and cost associated with traditional cancer drug development,” the company says in its filing.
Lantern calls its AI technology RADR. The company says the software includes millions of datapoints covering drug and tumor interactions, real-world information about thousands of cancer patients, results from clinical and drug sensitivity tests, and published cancer research. Lantern uses this software to identify the types of tumors and the groups of patients most likely to respond to treatment with its drugs.
The Lantern pipeline has three drugs. The most advanced program, LP-100, is in Phase 2 testing in prostate cancer. MGI Pharma advanced the drug to Phase 3 testing. But in 2002, the study was stopped after an early look at data suggested it was unlikely to beat chemotherapy. Lantern licensed the compound in 2015 and soon after sold the drug’s rights to European biotech Oncology Venture, according to the IPO filing. Oncology Venture is responsible for further clinical development of LP-100.
The most advanced Lantern compound being developed internally is LP-300, an experimental non-small cell lung cancer drug. The small molecule failed Phase 3 tests sponsored by BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals. In 2018, Lantern paid BioNumerik $25,000 up front to acquire LP-300 with an agreement to pay royalties if the drug reaches the market, according to the filing.
According to the IPO filing, Lantern’s retrospective analysis of the BioNumerik studies showed that some patients lived longer, particularly female non-smokers. Lantern says it plans to develop LP-300 for women who have never smoked or are currently non-smokers, as well as for non- or never-smokers whose genetics match up with a higher likelihood of responding to the treatment.
The third Lantern program, LP-184, was initially developed by MGI. The small molecule is currently in preclinical development for potential applications in several different types of cancer.
Lantern says it will use the cash raised from the IPO to fund Phase 2 tests of LP-300 and continue preclinical development of LP-184. The company also plans to continue developing its RADR technology and expand its drug pipeline by acquiring or licensing assets.
Lantern was founded in 2013 by Arunkumar Asaithambi and Biological Mimetics (BMI), a Frederick, MD-based developer of drugs for human and veterinary health. BMI owns 23.4 percent of Lantern and it also provides preclinical and non-clinical services to the company, according to the filing. Bios Equity Entities is Lantern’s largest shareholder, owning 42.1 percent.