Early data boost Aslan, but don’t ignore the red flags

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Data in only 18 patients from a project with limited patent life, a partner owed millions down the road and a hugely competitive target market: this being 2021, what’s not to like? Thus shares in Aslan jumped 65% in pre-market trading on hopes for ASLAN004 in atopic dermatitis; the level of efficacy reported certainly makes the project desirable, assuming that it is confirmed in larger trials. Results in a further 16 patients are due mid-2021, with a much larger phase IIb slated for later this year. Efficacy is not the only appeal here: Aslan is striking for once-monthly dosing and hopes that ‘004 will show lower rates of conjunctivitis than Sanofi/Regeneron’s mega-blockbuster Dupixent, which is given every two weeks. The two MAbs are mechanistically very similar, but subtle differences in receptor binding could hold the key to these important differentiations, the company believes. The downsides: ‘004’s inventor CSL is owed considerable milestone payments, and the project’s composition of matter patent expires in 2027. Throw in an incredibly crowded dermatitis space, and is not surprising that Aslan’s roar faded to a 19% share price rise by mid-morning.

Disclosed terms of Aslan-CSL deal
Milestone  Cost to Aslan
Commencement of phase III $30m
Regulatory milestones up to $95m
Sales milestones  up to $655m
Royalties on net sales  mid-single digit to 10%
Note: research deal first signed in 2014, amended to full global licensing deal in 2019. CSL's consent is also needed over any change of control. 

Note: selected doses only; *phase IIb trial; **results at wk 12;  ^phase I trial, results at wk 8, per protocol, 7 patients lost to Covid-19 restrictions and other reasons, ITT estimated at 50% and 40% respectively.

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