Avelas Biosciences wants to use this money to conduct first-in-man studies to test its cancer visualization technology.

January 9, 2014

3 Min Read
Avelas Biosciences Raises $6.85M To Test Its Real-Time Breast Cancer Illuminator

The Avelas Cancer Illuminator Shows Healthy and Diseased Tissue in a Rodent

Avelas Biosciences, based in La Jolla, California, announced Thursday that it has raised $6.85 million in a Series B funding round.

The money will help to fund a first-in-man study of its proprietary fluorescent peptide that lights up cancerous cells in real time during breast cancer surgery. This helps surgeons visualize the disease thereby reducing the operating time for breast cancer patients as well as the need for follow-on procedures to remove cancer at the margins - diseased cells lying adjacent to healthy ones.

The founding investor of Avelas - Avalon Ventures - led the funding round, in which new investors Torrey Pines Investment, WuXi AppTec, an outsourced R&D company for lifesciences, and an additional undisclosed investor, also participated.


Carmine Stengone, CEO of Avelas Biosciences

“[The Avelas Cancer Illuminator candidate] 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, who was named CEO of Avelas in conjunction with the financing. "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."

Including this round, Avelas has raised a total of $14 million since it was founded.

The company's fluorescent peptide works together with a fluorescence imaging camera system enabling a color-coded image of cancerous tissue to be superimposed onto the regular surgical view thereby creating a roadmap for surgeons engaged in removal of cancerous tissue from the breast.

Enabling real-time information of whether call cancerous tissue has been removed to reduce the number of repeat breast cancer operations is something that several companies are aiming for.

Georgia startup LumaMed is developing the LumaScan, a device that provides “rapid, intraoperative digital imaging of the surface of tissue excised during cancer surgery.”

The device is able to produce images that can distinguish between normal and abnormal tissue as well if not better than conventional histopathology, said Mark Samuels, CEO of LumaMed, in an interview with MD+DI last year.

In 2013, the FDA approved a novel device called “MarginProbe” that looks at how excised tissue responds to an electric field, thereby creating electromagnetic “signatures.” Those signatures can be used to identify healthy and cancerous tissue in patients. The technology is based on RF spectroscopy. Dune Medical developed the MarginProbe device.

Although all three companies are targeting breast cancer patients, Avelas is different in that it is providing a visual map of where the healthy and cancerous tissues lie prior to the surgery.

On the other hand, LumaMed and Dune Medical are examining excised tissue immediately after the surgeon has operated to give an indication of whether the procedure is over or whether the surgeon has left cancerous tissue behind that he or she can then remove immediately.

Nevertheless all three are trying to provide surgeons a level of insight that they didn’t possess previously.

“"Avelas Cancer Illumination 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 Jay Lichter, managing partner for Avalon Ventures and the chairman of the Avelas board. "This new financing round will propel AVB-620 development one step closer to accurately visualizing cancer in real-time for patients."

[Photo credit: Avelas Biosciences] 

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI
[email protected]

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