PharmaShots Interview: Teclison’s Ray Lee Shares Insights on the $5.9 Million Capital Raise
In an interview with PharmaShots, Ray Lee, CEO at Teclison shared his views on the completion of a $5.9 million capital raise and advancement of its oncology drug portfolio
- Ray spoke about Teclison’s recently completed funding of $5.9 million led by W.T.T. Investment
- He focused on the development of the lead candidate in the field of oncology. He also spoke about the Teclison’s clinical trial collaboration with Merck
- The interview gave a gist of how this funding will be significant for the development of innovative cancer therapeutics
Smriti: Who are the lead investors of this funding?
Ray Lee: The lead investor for our recent $5.9 million raise is W.T.T Investment, a single-family office based in Taipei, Taiwan, which manages the investments from one of the wealthiest families in Taiwan — the Tsai family.
Smriti: How do you think this funding will advance the company’s lead product candidate, TEC-001?
Ray Lee: We plan on using the $5.9 million we recently raised to advance clinical studies of our potential first-in-class therapeutic agent, TEC-001, in metastatic solid tumors. This will include sponsoring Phase 2 clinical studies using TEC-001 to combine with anti-PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, metastatic colorectal cancer, gastric cancer and non-small cell lung cancer with known liver metastasis. These studies will evaluate how TEC-001 can enhance the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors for which there is a critical unmet need.
Smriti: How much capital raising was done during this funding?
Ray Lee: We raised $5.9 million in gross proceeds capital raise from W.T.T. Investment, the family office of Taiwan’s Tsai family, with participation from new and existing U.S. and Taiwan investors, including Nestor Capital.
Smriti: Can you tell us something about TEC-001 and its MoA, or in solid tumors?
Ray Lee: Our pipeline, TEC-001, is a hypoxia-activating agent. In combination with transarterial embolization (TAE) (together, called TATE), TEC-001 generates free radicals under low oxygen conditions (hypoxia) to induce tumor necrosis. This works synergistically with FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) to overcome the existing hurdles of immunotherapy.
The following explains how the TATE platform works with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
- TEC-001 is delivered directly to the tumor through a tumor-feeding artery and achieves a high local concentration.
- TEC-001 is activated in liver tumors after the TAE procedure shuts off blood supply to the tumor, creating a hypoxic environment. In this environment, TEC-001 is converted into free radicals that kill liver tumor cells, cancer stem cells, and the tumor microenvironment through necrosis.
- Necrosis-triggered inflammation then recruits specialized immune cells, called macrophages, to present tumor-associated antigens to the immune system to generate stronger anti-tumor immunity.
- This system-wide anti-tumor immune response is synergistic with immunotherapy and can target other cancer cells throughout the body. The durable anti-cancer immunity has the potential to help safeguard against future cancer cell growth, thereby promoting long-term remission.
Smriti: Explain the epidemiology of liver metastasis.
Ray Lee: The liver is an organ that cancers commonly spread to. And when cancer spreads to the liver, the prognosis for the patient is extremely poor, with a roughly 10-20% five-year survival rate even with treatment. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) can improve survival for some cancer types, but they have low efficacy in solid tumors because the liver tumor microenvironment is particularly skilled at evading an anti-tumor immune response. Most therapies kill tumor cells through a death pathway called “apoptosis,” which does not enhance anti-tumor immunity but instead permits immune tolerance to the tumor. So, there is a high unmet medical need for therapies that work synergistically with existing ICIs to boost their therapeutic potential and generate long-lasting remission for patients with solid tumors that metastasize to the liver. These include lung, colorectal, gastric, and liver cancer which have the highest cancer-related deaths globally.
Our platform differs from other therapeutic approaches to address the challenges with liver metastasis because it kills cancer cells through “necrosis,” which initiates a robust immune response toward cancer cells. This approach can also kill cancer stem cells, which are not amenable to other cancer therapies. In addition, our platform is potentially safer than most current treatment options because TEC-001 is only active in the low oxygen conditions of the liver tumor created with TAE and is harmless in the normal oxygen conditions of healthy tissues in the rest of the body. The synergy mechanism between TATE-induced tumor necrosis and immune checkpoint inhibitors allows the use of a minimal amount of drug to enhance the safety profile and quality of life while improving efficacy.
Smriti: Throw some light on your clinical trial collaboration with Merck & Co evaluating TEC-001 in combination with their immunotherapy drug portfolio.
Ray Lee: Our goal is to address the unmet need in enhancing immunotherapy for cancers and there are many anti-PD-(L)1 or checkpoint inhibitors already in the market. So, establishing a Clinical Trial Collaboration and Supply Agreement with Merck is an essential strategy for Teclison to advance the clinical development of our company’s novel therapeutics. Merck’s global distribution network allows us to deliver our drug efficiently and effectively to patients worldwide.
Our novel approach works synergistically with FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) to boost anti-cancer immunity. Hence, partnerships with pharmaceutical companies like Merck that develop these ICIs to investigate the combinatory clinical efficacy are the most effective approach. Our collaboration with Merck allows us to evaluate TEC-001 with TAE (TATE) in combination with Merck’s KEYTRUDA in patients with refractory metastatic colorectal cancer. We have completed an end of Phase 2 meeting and plan on conducting a Phase 3 registrational study. In addition, we are conducting Phase 2 studies to evaluate the same combination in other cancers with liver metastasis.
Smriti: What other indications is Teclison planning to assess TEC-001?
Ray Lee: Currently, TEC-001 can only effectively treat cancers with solid tumors that metastasize to the liver due to the liver-specific TAE procedure necessary for drug activation. However, we are currently developing a second strategy to convert solid tumors into an optimal hypoxic environment for TEC-001 activation. TEC-002 aims to eliminate the need for the TAE procedure and the requirement of liver metastasis by its ability to selectively shut down tumor vessels even when injected into systemic circulation. We believe that combining TEC-002 and TEC-001 has the potential to systemically treat nearly all solid tumor cancers and offer long-term remission to patients with few or no treatment options.
Smriti: Are you looking for future collaborations to advance TEC-001 for any other indications?
Ray Lee: In addition to Merck, our strategy is to continue maximizing the therapeutic potential of our pipeline through collaboration with other major pharmaceutical companies in drug development and marketing. As discussed above, our strategy is to develop new drugs that will improve the efficacy of FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitors. Our platform can also potentially increase the efficacy of any other new cancer immunotherapeutics under development. So, we are open to working with any pharmaceutical companies for different cancer indications by identifying other immunotherapies that TEC-001 can synergistically enhance.
Ray Lee is the CEO of Teclison. He is a recognized leader in medical oncology with more than 20 years of industry experience in clinical development. Dr. Lee holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Duke University and an M.D. from National Taiwan University. He also has a medical oncology fellowship at the Fred-Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington and an Internal Medicine residency at Duke University Medical Center.
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Smriti is a Senior Editor at PharmaShots. She is curious and very passionate about recent updates and developments in the life sciences industry. She covers Biopharma, MedTech, and Digital health segments along with different reports at PharmaShots. She can be contacted at [email protected].