Drug development for cancer and inflammatory disease

Sumith A Kularatne, Vice President of Research and Development at On Target Laboratories shares the research strides he has made in drug development

Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?” – Odysseus (Troy).

Sumith A. Kularatne, Ph.D., is the Vice President of Research & Development at, On Target Laboratories, LLC (OTL), West Lafayette, IN (March 2012 – present). Dr. Kularatne is a world-class researcher and problem solver within the field of drug design and development for cancer and inflammatory disease. In fact, his distinctive and unparalleled approach to solve the problems associated with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been nothing short of unique and groundbreaking.

Dr. Kularatne says that “health holds a very important role in one’s life, as President Thomas Jefferson said. Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body… Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man… without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society”.

Therefore, Dr. Kularatne uses his diverse set of skills, ranging from medicinal chemistry, organic chemistry, cancer biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, protein and antibody engineering, and animal model development for drug testing that enables him to solve problems from a multidisciplinary approach and to discover better therapies with higher efficacy. Throughout his research career, Dr. Kularatne has been dedicated to developing targeted-imaging agents, diagnostic methods, and –therapeutic agents for cancers such as prostate, ovarian, lung, breast, and leukaemia and their metastatic disease and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.

Research strides

Under his guidance, OTL has developed a strong pipeline for several types of cancer and inflammatory diseases. OTL38, a folate receptor (FR)-targeted near infrared (NIR) dye, has been proven safe in a phase I trial and effective in a completed phase II clinical trial for ovarian cancer. A phase II trial for lung cancer and a phase III trial for ovarian cancer began in summer 2017. The same NIR dye has been conjugated to additional ligands targeting receptors on prostate (OTL78: PSMA-targeted NIR agent), colon (OTL338: CA-IX-targeted NIR agent), and pancreatic (OTL81: CCK2R-Targeted NIR agent) cancers. These ligands can also be conjugated to a photodynamic therapeutic (PDT) agent, giving surgeons the option to visualize and ‘burn’ targeted lesions using the same light source and camera. A lead folate- PDT compound (OTL228) has been identified with others to follow.

He pursued his postdoctoral studies in molecular biology and biomedicines with Peter G. Schultz, CEO and Professor of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), San Diego, CA (Dec 2009-Feb 2012). Dr. Schultz was the founder and former director of GNF, and is the founding director of the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) La Jolla, CA. Dr. Kularatne’s projects at TSRI focused on selective diminishing of primary tumor masses, metastatic cancers, and cancer stem cells using antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) or using bispecific antibodies (antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity or ADCC).

Dr. Kularatne earned his Ph.D. in organic/medicinal chemistry from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (Dec 2005-Dec 2009), conducting research under the guidance of Philip S. Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery at Purdue University. Dr. Low is also the co-founder and CSO of both Endocyte and On Target Laboratories. Dr. Kularatne’s research at Purdue University concentrated on small molecule-targeted drugs for cancers and inflammatory diseases.

His scientific efforts have resulted in 6 drug candidate in human clinical trials with multiple companies, over 50 US and foreign issued/pending patents and over 30 peer-reviewed publications. He has given multiple invited seminars/lectures in prestigious conferences such as “Gordon Research Conference” on “Drug Carriers in Medicine & Biology”, as well as in national and international conferences, universities, and industries. Dr. Kularatne’s scientific involvements have also led to several international and national awards including, “SBIR Phase II Grant Award for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Research (2017)”, “Distinguished Partners in Hope Award for OTL for fueling innovation, and providing hope to lung cancer patients (2016), “Innovation Corps at NIH program for SBIR Award for Drug Development for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (2016)”, “SBIR Phase I Grant Award for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Research (2014)”, “AAPS Postdoctoral Fellow Award sponsored by Merck (2012) for CXCR4-targeted antibody drug conjugates for metastatic cancers”, “the Skaggs Postdoctoral Fellow Award (2010)”, “AAPS Graduate Student Award in Biotechnology, sponsored by Pfizer (2009) for PSMA-targeted drugs for prostate cancer, AAPS Graduate Student Symposium sponsored by Eli Lilly (2009) for PSMA-targeted drugs for prostate cancer, Delano Maggard, Jr. graduate research award (2005)”, ACS recognition Chemist of the year (2004), E. A. Talaty fellowship (2003) and the B. L. Paker Endowed fellowship (2002). He is an invited member of multiple honorary societies including Phi Kappa Phi (NSF), National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Beta Phi Upsilon. He is also an invited peer reviewer for multiple scientific journals including Journal of Organic Chemistry, Molecular Pharmaceutics, Journal of Medical Case Reports, Nature Publishing group, and Drug Delivery.

Looking back on his 11 year career, Dr. Kularatne said that “I am fortunate and blessed to develop drugs that can possibly make a tremendous impact on human life, especially those who are suffering from cancer and their loved one”. He believes what Michael Jordan said “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships”. Dr. Kularatne stated that “I want to emphasis that all the accomplishments I have been involved with were a team effort. I have always been around a great group of people committed to work in cohesion with one another. I have been guided by great leaders and mentors. I have great parents, family and friends who support me unconditionally. So, I feel I was prepared by mentors and family to accomplish great things as mentioned by Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 400 B.C. “Every battle is won before it is fought”.

 

Sumith A Kularatne PhD

VP of R&D

On Target Laboratories, LLC

1281 Win Hentschel Blvd

West Lafayette IN 47906

Tel: +1 765 588 4547

skularatne@ontargetlabs.com

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