WEST LAFAYETTE - The chief executive officer of West Lafayette-based Endocyte Inc. (Nasdaq: ECYT) is using a word to describe the company's $12 million worldwide licensing acquisition of a late-stage prostate cancer therapy that he says is often overused: transformational. "In this case, the word is absolutely fitting," said Mike Sherman during a conference call with investors detailing the deal with Germany-based ABX GmbH. Endocyte has been working to reverse a series of quarterly losses in recent years, including a major restructuring and work force reduction announced in June.

Sherman has an ambitious timeline for PSMA-617, which he says could begin the clinical trial process early next year and complete trial stages as early as 2020. "Our experience with PSMA targeting and companion imaging development, in addition to our relationships with distinguished prostate cancer investigators from around the world, uniquely position Endocyte to lead this therapy to registration," Sherman said in a statement. During Monday's conference call, he added the therapy, if it meets approvals, would position Endocyte in a leading position in a $1 billion prostate cancer-fighting market.

Sherman and Chief Medical Officer Alison Armour say the high potential of the prostate-specific membrane antigen presents a rare opportunity. "Despite advances in the last decade that slow the progression of prostate cancer, once metastasized it is nearly always lethal, leading to 300,000 worldwide deaths annually," said Armour. "177Lu-PSMA-617 has demonstrated the most compelling activity of any drug currently in development for these post-chemotherapy patients."

Aside from a "very targeted" proof-of-concept data effort for the company's CAR T-cell program, Sherman says Endocyte's resources will be focused on developing the promising prostate cancer therapy. Additionally, "we will explore out-licensing opportunities for all other development programs," he said.

Down the line, Sherman says Endocyte has an opportunity to develop a pipeline of similar therapies that target other deadly diseases. He has served in c-level roles with the company for the last 11 years and in mid-2016, succeeded co-founder Ron Ellis as president and CEO.