Vergent Bioscience Awarded National Cancer Institute Phase 2 Grant to Advance Clinical Development of VGT-309 in Lung Cancer

 // News

November 29  

Nearly $2MM Small Business Innovation Research grant will support study of targeted fluorescent imaging agent designed to improve tumor visualization during minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgical procedures

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Vergent Bioscience, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing tumor-targeted imaging agents, announced that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the company a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant of nearly $2 million (Award Number R44CA277890). The grant will help fund a Phase 2 clinical study evaluating the company’s targeted fluorescent imaging agent, VGT-309, for intraoperative imaging of tumors in patients undergoing lung cancer surgery.

“This Phase 2 SBIR award further validates the promise of VGT-309 to help surgeons realize the full potential of minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgical procedures by improving the visibility of tumors during surgery,” said John Santini, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer at Vergent Bioscience. “We are grateful to the NCI for their support and to the team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine for conducting this Phase 2 study.”

The majority of lung cancer surgery is now performed using minimally invasive approaches, which have multiple advantages for patients, but require that surgeons work in a small area with a restricted view and limited tactile clues, presenting the potential for tumor to be missed and left behind. Early Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials evaluating VGT-309 in lung cancer yielded compelling safety and efficacy data that support the agent’s ability to help surgeons see previously undetected or difficult-to-find tumors in real-time, ensuring all tumor tissue is removed during minimally invasive (MIS) and robotic-assisted surgical procedures.

The NCI SBIR grant will support a Phase 2 clinical study of VGT-309 led by Sunil Singhal, M.D., the William Maul Measey Professor of Surgical Research and the chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Penn (NCT05400226). The study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of VGT-309 to locate and identify tumor tissue that may have otherwise been missed during lung cancer surgery.

“As minimally invasive surgical approaches are increasingly becoming the standard of care for treatment of many solid tumors, surgeons urgently need imaging agents that will support better tumor visualization,” said Dr. Singhal. “We’re encouraged by early data from studies evaluating VGT-309 and look forward to further exploring its utility in this trial.”

The NIH’s SBIR program is a congressionally mandated set-aside program to encourage research and development that has a strong potential for technology commercialization. The program allows small business entrepreneurs a chance to obtain non-dilutive funding for early-stage R&D.

About VGT-309
VGT-309 is a tumor-targeted imaging agent intentionally designed to enable a complete solution for optimal tumor visualization during open, MIS, and robotic-assisted surgical procedures. VGT-309 is delivered to patients via a short infusion several hours before surgery. Invented in Professor Matt Bogyo’s Lab at Stanford University School of Medicine, the molecule binds tightly (i.e., covalently) to cathepsins, a family of proteases that are highly overexpressed across a broad range of solid tumors. This approach provides distinct clinical advantages and positions VGT-309 as an ideal tumor imaging agent. VGT-309’s imaging component is the near infrared (NIR) dye indocyanine green (ICG), which is compatible with all commercially available NIR intraoperative imaging systems that support MIS technologies and is the preferred dye to minimize confounding background autofluorescence.

About Vergent Bioscience
Vergent Bioscience is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that is helping surgeons realize the full potential of minimally invasive and robotic surgery by significantly improving the visibility of tumors. Vergent’s lead compound, VGT-309, is atumor-targeted fluorescent imaging agentintentionally designed to enable surgeons to see previously undetected or difficult-to-find tumors during surgery in real-time, ensuring all tumor tissue is removed. The company is first evaluating VGT-309 in lung cancer, with the potential to expand its application to a wide range of solid tumors. Vergent Bioscience is a privately held company based in Minneapolis, MN. For more information, please visit

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