On Target Labs: Late-Stage Ovarian Cancer Detection Trial Underway

Ovarian Cancer

West Lafayette, Indiana-based On Target Laboratories, announced that the first patient was treated in its Phase III trial of OTL38 in detecting ovarian cancer.

OTL38 is a ligand that targets folate receptors that appear in various types of cancers. Linked with a near-infrared dye, it allows surgeons to visually identify cancer cells that can guide them in removing the cancer tissue.

In this Phase III trial, patients with ovarian cancer receive a single dose of OTL38 to help assess the efficacy of using it compared to other means of detecting cancer lesions. The company expects to enroll 147 patients at six U.S. cancer centers. Top-line data is expected in 2019.

“Treating our first patient in a Phase III trial is a major milestone achievement for On Target Laboratories,” said Martin Low, the company’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Our work on this Phase III trial in ovarian cancer complements our ongoing work with OTL38 in lung cancer as well as the development of our other targeted dyes. On Target’s platform of targeted small molecules goes beyond lung and ovarian cancers and will eventually help surgeons precisely identify nearly all solid tumor cancers and a wide range of other diseases.”

The company was founded in 2002 by Philip Low, Presidential Scholar in Drug Discovery and Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University. One of his graduate students developed a fluorescent dye that lit up cancer cells. Martin Low and Philip Low are brothers.

In 2017, the company raised $44 million in equity and convertible debt financing. The funding round was led by new investor, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC.

“Our goal is to significantly improve the treatment of cancer patients undergoing surgery, by helping the surgeon identify and resect malignant lesions that are too small or buried to be seen with the naked eye,” said Philip Low, in a statement.

Earlier, the company raised $32 million. The company is headquartered at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana and has 12 full-time employees.

The recent raise marks one of the largest life sciences startup funding in the state. Indianapolis Business Journal notes, “The capital infusion shows that Indiana’s life sciences sector is finally starting to pull down some serious venture funding. What was once a trickle has developed into something of a gusher. Last year, nearly three dozen Indiana companies, from Bloomington to Warsaw, raised a combined $111.3 million, up 25 percent form 2016 and setting a new record. That’s more than four times the amount the sector raised just five years ago.”

But 70 percent of the venture capital raised last year went to just three companies—On Target Laboratories, Outpost Medicine, and Wellfount.

The principal investigator in the new clinical trial, Janos Tanyi, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement, “Being able to positively identify cancerous tissue is critical in the long-term success of treatment. A successful surgery that removes all of the ovarian tumor can significantly increase the overall survival. With more than 20,000 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed every year in the U.S., new approaches that can improve patient outcomes are needed and we look forward to further evaluating the potential of OTL38 in this study.”

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