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Healthcare

How Lantern Pharma’s AI Is Changing the Game

The precision oncology medicine company guided three drugs in the trial pipeline with uncommon efficiency.
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Courtesy: iStock

Dallas-based Lantern Pharma is bringing oncology treatments to patients cheaper and quicker than was imaginable just a few years ago. The precision medicine pharmaceutical company now has three drugs in trial stages and does not plan to slow down anytime soon.

A 2020 JAMA study calculated the average investment cost of developing a drug to be over $1 billion, which has likely risen as costs have increased following the pandemic. Industry group PhRMA says it typically takes 10-12 years to bring a drug to market. Lantern CEO Panna Sharma has made it his mission to reduce both figures using big data and artificial intelligence and is already seeing some significant wins.

Lantern Pharma has just 24 full-time employees and already has three drugs in the trial stage. Last fall, the company received an orphan drug designation from the FDA for LP-284, which treats a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that lacks a standard treatment. The molecule used to develop the drug didn’t exist when Lantern went public in 2020, and less than three years later, with just $3 million in development costs, the company is manufacturing the drug, and the first patients have already been dosed.

With 40,000 to 80,000 potential patients, the drug could be a game changer in the space, especially because of the speed and low investment costs. While gene therapies are in development to target the disease, they can be very expensive to produce and will likely fetch a high price tag for patients and payers.

“Having the right kind of drug that can be made available globally and brought to market quickly is the real need,” Sharma says. “These drugs should have a serious seat at the table in managing non-Hodgkins lymphoma.”

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LP-284 is enrolling patients at centers in Utah and California and looks to add more sites this year. Phase 1 will include 30 total patients before moving into the next phase and larger patient groups. Sharma says the drug also has some non-cancer indications that the company will share later this year.

Lantern developed a platform called Response Algorithm for Drug Positioning & Rescue (RADR), which helps the company develop compounds to fight cancer and personalize treatments. The platform analyzes genomic and drug sensitivity data from several curated sources to predict patients’ responses to Lantern’s drugs and other therapies. Leveraging this big data has allowed the company to smash the expectations for drug development timelines and costs.

The shorter development times and lower costs position Lantern well to treat orphan diseases, which the FDA defines as having less than 200,000 potential [patients nationwide. These diseases lack the patient populations to justify a massive investment by a pharmaceutical company. Decreasing development costs opens up possibilities for those suffering from orphan diseases.

In addition to LP-284, the company has two other drugs in trials around the country. Lantern’s LP-300 dosed its first patient in March 2023 and is now in Phase 2 and enrolling in 14 cities. Lantern is working with UT Southwestern and Texas Oncology and has begun the process to recruit sites and patients in Taiwan and Japan. LP-300 is being used in combination with chemotherapy to target never smokers (those who have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime) with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. These patients make up 15-20 percent of all lung cancer patients, of which there are 200,000 diagnosed each year in the U.S.

The FDA approved Lantern’s LP-184 application to be an investigational new drug last June. The first drug to be developed entirely internally at Lantern, Phase 1 will target patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, glioblastomas, metastatic brain cancer, central nervous system cancers, and other solid tumors. The company is currently launching the drug at clinical sites.

Additionally, Sharma is launching a new company called Starlight Therapeutics that will use AI to exclusively target central nervous system and brain cancers. Sharma says the company already has five to six promising adult and pediatric brain cancer treatment indications. He will be on the new company’s board as chairman and is in the process of building out the company’s C-suite.

Since going public in 2020 for $14.75, Lantern Pharma’s stock had been hovering around $5 for the last two years, but has nearly doubled since March 1 as more drugs have been moved into trial stages. “It validates the model that goes after a patient population that is in need of affordable, available

medicines,” Sharma says. “Our hope is that we can bring this model of velocity and efficiency across multiple cancer categories.”

Author

Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…
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