Ascalon International is a privately held oncology-focused drug development company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ascalon was established in June 2009 to create and manage a diversified portfolio of promising oncology drugs using cutting-edge development methodologies, pioneered by the company’s management team and capitalize on the growing trend in the pharmaceutical industry for strategic outsourcing of development programs. Founders include Richard Love (Chairman), Dr. Daniel Von Hoff (Chief Scientific Officer), Ed Jacobs (President) and others who individually and collectively have a rich history of oncology development. Dr. Von Hoff is also the Physician in Chief and Director of Translational Research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona and Chief Scientific Officer for U.S. Oncology.
Dr. Von Hoff’s major interest is in the development of new anti-cancer agents, both in the clinic and in the laboratory. He and his colleagues were involved in the beginning of the development of many of the anti-cancer agents now used routinely, including: mitoxantrone, fludarabine, paclitaxel, docetaxel, gemcitabine, irinotecan, nelarabine, capecitabine, lapatinib and others.
Ascalon has forged strategic partnerships to help facilitate the drug development process, including the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and its Translational Drug Development (TD2) unit, which possess advanced genomics and proteomics technologies to identify proprietary biomarkers predictive of candidate drugs’ efficacy. Ascalon is also partnered with U.S. Oncology, the nation’s largest community-based cancer treatment and research network. U.S. Oncology treats approximately 20 percent of all cancer patients in the U.S. and played a role in the development of 36 of the most recent FDA-approved cancer drugs. Ascalon’s alliance with U.S. Oncology gives Ascalon access to patients and clinical trial services. U.S. Oncology is a founding investor of Ascalon.
Ascalon has analyzed and assessed over 300 cancer compounds to date, evaluating such factors as early signs of activity, tolerability and safety; uniqueness of the compound and targets; and the ability to design trials with early “go/no go” time points that are cost efficient. The company has licensed its first compound, IV fenretinide, for clinical development. Fenretinide has been shown to cause ceramide (a toxic wax-like substance) to selectively accumulate in and ultimately kill tumor cells. Ceramide is found in all tumor types, giving fenretinide potential applications against a wide range of cancers.
Ascalon is currently completing two Phase I clinical trials in patients with solid tumors and in lymphoma /leukemia. These trials are showing multiple complete and partial remissions in highly refractory patients. The drug was found to be well-tolerated. “To have any activity in Phase I is a benefit,” says Bill Simpson, Vice President of Business Development at Ascalon. “To have this kind of activity is really outstanding.”
Ascalon is actively seeking additional compounds to round out its portfolio. The company seeks to have 5-8 compounds in its portfolio over the next 3-4 years. Ascalon plans to begin Phase II clinical studies of IV fenretinide soon with a view towards an accelerated approval in high unmet need areas. The company intends to find a major pharmaceutical company to commercalize the product, but could take the product to market themselves. “We’ve got options. All of us at Ascalon have launched many oncology brands in the US and around the world. I think this just adds another level of possibilities with Ascalon,” says Simpson.
Ascalon is one of numerous companies scheduled to present at the OneMedForum 2011 in San Francisco. To learn more about the conference, which highlights promising healthcare companies with the potential to change the future of medicine, visit http://www.onemedplace.com/forum.