Disclosed is a small molecule dye for use in imaging in the near-infrared window, namely between 1000 nm-1700 nm wavelength. The present dyes are also useful for photoacoustic imaging and photothermal therapy. The dyes have a structure of a D-A-D (donor-acceptor-donor) fluorescent compound core and side chains rendering the compounds water soluble and easily conjugated to hydrophilic polymers and/or targeting ligands. Further disclosed is compound, CH1055 that can be PEGylated, conjugated to a targeting ligand, or conjugated to taurine. Key steps utilized to assemble the core structure of the target included a cross-Suzuki coupling reaction, iron reduction and N-thionylaniline induced ring closure. Four carboxylic acid groups were introduced into the donor-acceptor-donor (D-A-D) type fluorescent compound to impart a certain aqueous solubility and to allow facile conjugation to targeting ligands.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENTAL SUPPORT
 This invention was made with Government support under contract DE-SC0008397 awarded by the United States Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.