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Indiana life sciences icon is not ready to retire

Dr. Philip Low is the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Purdue University College of Science. (photo courtesy: John Underwood/Purdue)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — For nearly a half century, Purdue University researcher Dr. Philip Low has worked in his laboratory in West Lafayette, testing and developing therapies for a range of human maladies and pathologies. Most recently, one of his discoveries for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. His legacy in Indiana’s life sciences sector is well-noted, having sold his biopharmaceutical company Endocyte in a $2.1 billion deal in 2018.

Even though he has started seven companies and has been successful in getting several of his life-saving treatments approved by the FDA, Low told Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta he is not ready to retire.

“I’ve thought often about retirement. As a matter of fact, I speak with my wife often about it. But in all fairness, ideas come to me very easily and very rapidly,” said Low.

Low is not a pharmaceutical scientist by training. He uses his expertise in chemistry to approach and address medical conditions.

Low says he has “many, really good ideas” for treating such diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, influenza, and COVID 19. While many of his ideas are at molecular level, some of his concepts even address bone fractures.

“I would feel that almost negligent of me to retire now and not do what I can do for people that are still suffering from these various pathologies and maladies,” said Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Purdue University College of Science.

Last month, the FDA approved the drug marketed as Pluvicto for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. Low says the therapy offers newfound hope for men who have run out of treatment options.

Pluvicto is based on a molecule that Low discovered in his Purdue lab years ago. The precision treatment offers targeted therapy in searching and destroying cancer cells.

“[It] simply concentrates radioactivity only in cancer cells and avoids the uptake by adjacent healthy cells,” said Low. “And by increasing their concentration in these malignant cells, it leads to the rapid death of the malignant cells and preservation of the life of the adjacent healthy cells.”

The technology is marketed through Switzerland-based Novartis Inc. The healthcare giant picked up the therapy when it purchased Low’s Purdue-based startup Endocyte five years ago.

In a Phase III study, the targeted treatment along with the normal standard of care had a 38% reduction in the risk of death compared with the standard of care alone.

The Pluvicto support is the second FDA approval for Low in the past six months. In November, the FDA approved a new imaging drug called Cytalux that was also developed by Low. The innovation helps to assist surgeons in identifying ovarian cancer lesions during surgery with the use of fluorescent technology.

“It’s been very rewarding to finally see a few of these drugs that we’ve been optimizing in the pipeline for many years, make it through the very arduous process of FDA approval and finally being approved for distribution to people,” Low said. “And what’s even more rewarding, frankly, are the emails that I frequently received from patients that benefit from these medicines. They acknowledge how much it has helped their health and how happy they are and how it enables them to be with their families longer and enjoy a greater, better quality of life. So that’s extremely rewarding.”