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A Dallas biotech startup is poised to hire more biologists, cancer researchers, and AI developers after raising $26 million in an initial public stock offering. Currently, Lantern Pharma has just 12 employees.
Recently, Dallas-based Lantern Pharma sold 1.75 million shares at $15 totaling $26 million. Lantern had originally estimated it would raise $25 million.
“I’m very excited,” Lantern CEO Panna Sharma said. “I’m excited on behalf of the Lantern team since it lets us have the capital to do what we need to do to get things done to meet our company mission.”
Founded in 2013, by Arunkumar Asaithambi and Biological Mimetics; Biological Mimetics is based in Frederick, MD, and develops drugs for both human and veterinary use. Biological Mimetics also provides Lantern with preclinical and non-clinical services.
Biological Mimetics owns 23.4% of Lantern, however, Bios Equity Entities is Lantern’s biggest shareholder, owning 42.1%. Bios Equities is a venture capital firm that identifies advanced biotech companies in overlooked and under-invested US markets. The Bios team helps cultivate these companies and bring their products to the market.
Lantern graduated from the Dallas-based healthcare startup accelerator Health Wildcatters. The company said in a recent filing that it had losses of $2.4 million in 2019 and a loss of $1.7 million in 2018. Lantern has yet to generate any revenue, but the company has raised $7 million in previous funding rounds.
Lantern Pharma is the third company that CEO Panna Sharma has taken public; the previous two were Cancer Genetics Inc and iXL Enterprises.
Lantern Pharma works at the clinical-stage to help identify cancer patients who could be helped with targeted therapies. Lantern uses a sophisticated platform of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and genomic data to identify these patients.
Lantern also works with drugs developed by other companies and abandoned during trials. It also develops its own compounds. Right now, Lantern has drugs in clinical trials for lung and prostate cancer and another drug in preclinical studies to treat liver, ovarian, and thyroid cancers.
“Every other industry has the advantage of using data and AI to bend the cost curve,” Sharma said. “I think Lantern will be among the leaders in doing that for cancer.”
Lantern Pharma has licensed its prostate cancer drug to Oncology Venture A/S. Oncology Venture A/S is a European biotech company that’s overseeing an active Phase II clinical trial for that drug. Lantern Pharma has also indicated it will seek FDA approval this year for a Phase II trial for its lung cancer drug.
“Our focus is to make cancer treatments and bring them to market faster, cheaper, and with less risk. In that way, cancer patients can access therapies that are different from the way drugs have been developed in the past,” Sharma said.
The company uses its proprietary AI technology, which it calls RADR, to help find compounds that are best suited for “drug rescue.”
The company says its software uses millions of data points to analyze drug and tumor interactions. It also uses real-world information gleaned from thousands of cancer patients, results from drug sensitivity and clinical tests, as well as published cancer research. Lantern uses its software to identify the groups of patients and the types of cancers most likely to respond to its drugs.
RADR is constantly being fine-tuned by Lantern Pharma to further develop their drug portfolio as well as to find the patient groups that can be best respond to Lantern’s therapies as well as the treatments of their partners. This technology allows the company to more efficiently position both novel and existing drugs, as well as rescue and repurpose abandoned therapeutic assets.