A company whose optical imaging technology could help surgeons remove more cancerous tissue than previously possible has received $15 million in additional funding to enable further development including clinical trials.

OnTarget Laboratories LLC, based in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, received the funding from the Pension Fund of the Christian Church and Tom Hurvis, founder of Old World Industries. Hurvis is the original investor in the company.

"I am very pleased with the progress the company has made in the development of this revolutionary technology and, hence, am providing further support to move this forward so that, if successful, it could be a game-changer in helping patients with cancer," he said.

James Hamlett, president of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church, said he and his colleagues were impressed with the efforts of the OnTarget Laboratories team and the potential benefits to future patients with cancer.

"By investing in this technology, we hope to make a contribution to the science that could result in a major step against cancer," he said.

The optical imaging technology has been developed by Philip Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at Purdue University and co-founder of OnTarget Laboratories. It is based on the over-expression of specific receptors on solid cancers. Data from the initial use of this technology in humans was published in Nature Medicine.

"OnTarget Laboratories has developed small-molecule ligands that specifically target these receptors that are over-expressed in cancers. We have attached them to proprietary fluorescent imaging agents that allow the cancers to light up during surgery," Low said. "We anticipate that these tumor-targeted probes could help surgeons remove more of the tumor than would have been otherwise possible because they will see the tumors illuminated in real-time during surgery."

Martin Low, CEO of OnTarget Laboratories, said the funding from Hurvis and the Pension Fund of the Christian Church will enable further clinical trials needed to optimize the technology platform.

"These investors recognize our efforts to efficiently develop our technology that, if proven successful, could help cancer patients survive longer in the future," he said. "We are very focused and committed to develop our pipeline of molecules."