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Mequon firm seeks to put the brakes on cancer cells

James Yarger, who owns a drug development company in Mequon, had an idea brewing in his head for some time.

If cancer cells are regular cells run amok - cells with failed brakes, as it were - there must be a way to fix those brakes.

With help from $12 million of investor funding and a $250,000 loan from the state's Technology Venture Fund, Yarger thinks he has figured it out.

His young company, Endece LLC, is prepared to begin clinical trials next year on a compound he says could potentially turn off any kind of cancer cell.

"We can stop any cancer from replicating. The cell is trying to replicate and essentially tearing itself apart because of the blocks we put in place," said Yarger, 58.

Yarger with his wife, Jean, started Endece four years ago. The company has a staff of five.

The compound Endece will bring into clinical trials, called NDC-1308, is one of more than 40 the company has developed. In animal trials, it has shown the ability to stop a tumor's chromosomes from replicating and to inhibit the so-called hedgehog signaling pathway that is present in many aggressive tumors.

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