Purdue-based startup measures movement in cells to improve cancer drug development

November 4, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Officials at a life sciences startup based on a Purdue University innovation say their technology could help pharmaceutical companies find more effective drug candidates and improve the results of personalized cancer care.

David Nolte, president of Animated Dynamics Inc., said pharmaceutical companies screen millions of compounds annually to find new drug candidates. In traditional lead testing, which occurs at a later stage in the process, tens of thousands of compounds are screened in Petri dishes.

"The biology happening in Petri dishes during lead testing is not the biology that goes on inside a tissue. There are differences in how cells respond to drugs in a three-dimensional environment, which means the results that occur in Petri dishes may not be the same as the results that occur in the body," said Nolte, who also is a professor in Purdue's Department of Physics and Astronomy. "The advantage our technology provides is that it can help with lead selection of compounds in a biologically relevant context."

Nolte and John Turek, the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer, created technology that uses holography and lasers to study a cell's phenotype, or the observable traits that result from how cells in tissues interact with their environment. The technology was highlighted in a letter of the peer-reviewed Journal of Biomedical Optics.

Turek, who also is a professor in Purdue's Department of Basic Medical Sciences, said the technology makes digital holograms of tissues. The holographic technique allows researchers to see all the way through a tissue, not just the surface.

"We use spectroscopy to measure the time-dependent changes in the hologram," he said. "It breaks down the changes into different frequencies, and we can tell how a cell's membranes, mitochondria, nucleus and even cell division respond to drugs. We measure the frequency of the light fluctuations as a function of time after a drug is applied."

Nolte said Animated Dynamics' technology can be used to assess the efficacy of drug combinations, called regimens, on personal cancers.

"No two cancers are alike. Therefore, every patient needs his or her own selected therapy to get the best results," he said. "Our technology can measure a cancer tumor's response to cancer therapy, such as metabolism and cell division. This can tell how well the drug is working for the patient and can aid in predicting side effects."

The technology has been licensed to Animated Dynamics through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. More than 20 startups based on Purdue intellectual property were launched in the 2014 fiscal year. A video about Animated Dynamics is available at http://youtu.be/sWGv7h54mLE. The company is based in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette.

Animated Dynamics received a six-month SBIR Phase I grant worth $150,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop a microscope attachment to help scientists study the motion and dynamics inside a cell. The attachment will turn a standard microscope into a biodynamic microscope that studies a cell's phenotype, or the observable traits that result from how cells interact with their environment.

For information on other Purdue intellectual property ready for licensing and commercialization, visit http://www.otc-prf.org. For more information about available leadership positions, investing in a Purdue startup or licensing a Purdue innovation, visit http://www.purduefoundry.com.

About Animated Dynamics Inc.

Animated Dynamics (AniDyn) is located in the Kurz Purdue Technology Center in West Lafayette, Indiana. The company was spun out of Purdue University by professors David D. Nolte and John J. Turek. AniDyn is focused on the development and commercialization of live-tissue imaging platform technologies. AniDyn's imaging platform provides solutions for diverse applications in the life and health sciences.

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Steve Martin, 765-588-3342, sgmartin@prf.org 

Sources: David Nolte, dnolte@anidyn.com

John Turek, john@anidyn.com

Note to journalists: Here is a link for a video that accompanies this story. http://youtu.be/sWGv7h54mLE

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