WEST LAFAYETTE - A veteran of Indiana's life sciences industry says the proposed blockbuster sale of West Lafayette-based Endocyte Inc. (Nasdaq: ECYT) is good for the ecosystem in the state. Switzerland-based Novartis AG has signed an agreement to acquire Endocyte for $2.1 billion, which BioCrossroads Project Director Brian Stemme says is "by far" the largest-ever acquisition of an Indiana life sciences company. The deal still faces regulatory and shareholder hurdles.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Stemme said the deal is validation of more than 20 years of support and determination. The company was born in the mid-1990s from biotechnology developed at Purdue University by eventual founder Philip Low and fellow biochemist Christopher Leamon. Low serves as chief science officer and Leamon is vice president of research and development.

"There's been just a lot of people between Dr. Low, Purdue University, the state of Indiana, all the executives and scientists that have been supporting that company over the years, so to see it really be recognized and work with a company that can help get that product to market, it's exciting," Stemme said. "It's a validation that all those folks knew what they were doing, knew what they were talking about, they saw the promise of that technology early and then just kept on grinding."

Stemme says the deal adds to some $8 billion in transactions involving Hoosier life sciences businesses in the last five years, including:

Endocyte is based at Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, and last month, it was recognized as the first Purdue startup to be valued at $1.5 billion. Purdue President Mitch Daniels says "the sale of Endocyte is a landmark moment, but given the explosion in entrepreneurship and new start-ups at Purdue, I'm sure it's the first of many to come. "We are so deeply proud of our Purdue scientists whose genius is saving lives from cancer, and now has brought great new wealth to Indiana."

Last year, the company acquired a promising prostate cancer therapy in the late stages of development from ABX GmbH in Germany. Endocyte says it expects the acquisition will boost the chances of PSMA-617 going to market. Endocyte went public in 2011, raising $79 million during its initial public offering.