New Purdue Research Park-based firm helps surgeons see cancer cells

July 10, 2012  

cancer cell probes

On Target Laboratories LLC is developing probes to illuminate cancer cells, which may help surgeons see more of them during surgery. On Target Laboratories has become a tenant of the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette. (On Target Laboratories photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Surgeons may benefit from technology developed to target cancer cells one-thousandth of a millimeter in size and make them easier to see during surgery.

On Target Laboratories LLC is developing probes to illuminate cancer cells. The technology is licensed from Endocyte Inc., and was discovered by Philip S. Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University.

On Target Laboratories is based in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette. Tom Hurvis is chairman of the board, Marty Low is CEO, Philip Low is CSO and Tim Biro is COO.

"For our first probe, EC-17, we attach a dye to folate, which is a water-soluble vitamin," Marty Low said. "Folate binds to the receptors on the surface of the cancer cell and then enters the cell with the fluorescent dye through a process called endocytosis. It will not enter healthy cells, which do not have folate receptors."

Low said the probes facilitate work done by surgeons by helping them see more cancer cells.

"The targeted dye will literally act as a lighted road map so surgeons can identify smaller lesions, margins and lymph nodes that are cancerous," he said. "We believe that if surgeons can see more, they will be able to remove more and the outcome for patients will be better. It also may reduce costs by potentially saving time in the operating room, recovery time and the need for additional procedures."

EC-17 will initially be used to help ovarian cancer patients, but surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University are conducting studies to determine the potential use of EC-17 in lung and renal cancer patients. On Target Laboratories is in the process of developing other probes for additional cancers including colon, breast, endometrial and prostate. Because different cancer cells have different receptors, there will be different targeting drugs and dyes to create the probes. EC-17 will enter Phase II clinical trials in late summer 2012.

Marty Low explained how On Target Laboratories benefits by being a tenant in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette.

"The proximity to Purdue University and the core technology is a huge benefit," he said. "The Purdue Research Foundation provides services that will help us grow, and the park is an environment where innovative people come together."

About On Target Laboratories LLC

On Target Laboratories is in the business of discovering, developing and commercializing small molecules that, when conjugated with fluorescent dyes, target and illuminate specific cancerous cells. These conjugates can be used by doctors and surgeons worldwide to better diagnose and surgically remove a wide range of diseases from cancer to inflammation-related diseases. On Target and its partners will succeed by helping doctors dramatically change the outcome for their patients.

About Purdue Research Park

The Purdue Research Park has the largest university-affiliated business incubation program in the country. The park's four Indiana sites are in West Lafayette, Indianapolis, Merrillville and New Albany. The nearly 200 companies located in the park network employ about 4,000 people.

Purdue Research Park contact:

Steve Martin, 765-588-3342,


Marty Low, 484-744-1500,

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

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