Avelas Biosciences announced today the closing of a $6.85 million tranche of a Series B financing round – bringing the total funds raised since inception to ~$14 million. The funds will be used to support ongoing development of the Avelas Cancer Illuminator (ACI) candidate, AVB-620, through first-in-patient study. The financing was led by founding investor, Avalon Ventures, joined by new investors Torrey Pines Investment, WuXi AppTec, and an additional unnamed investor.
In conjunction with the financing, Avelas Biosciences has promoted Carmine Stengone to chief executive officer where he and Nikolay Savchuk, Ph.D., managing director for Torrey Pines Investment, will join the board of directors. Jay Lichter, Ph.D., managing partner for Avalon Ventures, has been appointed board chairman. Kevin Kinsella and Timothy Scott will remain on the Avelas board of directors.
“ACI technology offers an objective and quantitative approach to oncologic surgical imaging that cannot be achieved using conventional techniques, which lack sensitivity and are prone to artifacts,” said Dr. Lichter. “This new financing round will propel AVB-620 development one step closer to accurately visualizing cancer in real-time for patients.” Surgery is an important part of breast cancer management. In addition to removal of the primary tumor, surgery is required for tissue biopsy and accurate cancer staging, which is critical for subsequent treatment decisions. Unfortunately, the current standard for evaluating these samples cannot be done in real-time and, therefore, often requires a second operation which exposes the patient to additional surgical risk and cost. A means of determining the cancer status of tissue in real-time would represent a significant step forward in the management of early breast cancer.
AVB-620, a fluorescent peptide, delivers a real-time intraoperative cancer diagnosis in the form of a luminous map, providing surgeons with enough information to make a decision during the first surgery as opposed to waiting for the results of limited pathology reports. In preclinical testing, the in vivo accuracy of AVB-620 is >95%.
“AVB-620 will enable surgeons to identify cancerous tissue during the surgical procedure, addressing a key unmet need in the oncologic surgery space,” said Carmine Stengone, CEO of Avelas. “This capability will allow surgeons to make real-time decisions that will improve patient treatment and lead to significant cost savings by reducing surgical time and the number of re-operations.” The ACI technology, founded by Nobel Prize winning scientist Roger Tsien, Ph.D., utilizes the increased activity of enzymes called proteases that occur in tumors and metastases. The fluorescent peptide illuminates in the presence of pathological protease activity, thereby marking the cancerous tissue. When used in conjunction with a fluorescence imaging camera system during surgery, a color-coded image showing cancerous tissue is superimposed onto the normal surgical view, providing the surgeon a map of the cancer location.