Bristol-Myers Squibb has signed an agreement with Aslan Pharmaceuticals which will see the Singapore-based company help develop one of the US major's investigational cancer compounds.

The drug in question, BMS-777607, is a small molecule inhibitor of the MET receptor tyrosine kinase for the treatment of solid tumours. Under the terms of the agreement, Aslan will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialise the drug in China, Australia, Korea, Taiwan and other selected Asian countries, while B-MS retains rights in the rest of the world.

Aslan, which is privately-held, will run and fund development of BMS-777607 under a pre-agreed development programme that will initially target gastric and lung cancers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The firms said that "this creative approach will accelerate the delivery of clinical proof-of-concept by leveraging the complementary strengths of an Asia-based drug development company and a global biopharmaceutical company".

Francis Cuss, head of research at B-MS, said that the firm "seeks to seed companies in key markets with promising investigational medicines". It is part of the company's 'oyster strategy', he added, which sees partners "produce high-quality data that may be used to further develop and commercialise the medicine worldwide".