In late 2013, Dr. Rice was introduced to Lorus Therapeutics, a Toronto-based publicly traded microcap company in a position of financial distress. Dr. Rice recognized that Lorus’ lead agent, previously known as LOR-253 (now renamed APTO-253), which was being developed for certain solid tumor indications, had significant potential as a targeted agent for the treatment of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and for those with high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) who typically transition to AML. These insights led the company to redirect the strategy for APTO-253 and company resources toward applications in blood cancers and more broadly to small molecule, anticancer therapies and personalized companion diagnostics.
Dr. Rice joined the Company as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and subsequently recruited Mr. Vellanki and Mr. Chow to join the Company’s executive team as Senior Vice President, Chief Business Officer and Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, respectively. Additionally, the team attracted noted oncologist Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, and hematologist Dr. Brian Druker, both of whom now serve as key scientific advisors. Dr. Von Hoff also serves in a consulting capacity as the Company’s Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs. In short order, Aptose Biosciences established a new strategic vision and leadership, successfully completed two equity offerings led by blue chip investors, assembled a world-class clinical development team, and navigated APTO-253 into the clinic for the treatment of patients with AML and high-risk MDS.
In addition, the management team sought to expand the pipeline of Aptose with an oral small molecule having application to hematologic malignancies, directed at well-validated drug targets, having potential epigenetic applications, and having demonstrated the ability to eradicate tumors in animal models in the absence of toxicity. To fulfill the product profile, Aptose in June of 2016, effected a definitive agreement with the South Korean company CrystalGenomics (CG), granting Aptose an exclusive option to research, develop, manufacture and commercialize CG’806 in all countries of the world except China and Korea, and for all fields of use.