Bioanalytics — the combination of biology and mathematics — is becoming a hot field. Rutgers University has just received $2.55 million from the National Science Foundation to plant the seeds of the biology/math combination. Rutgers will lead an effort to create high school curriculum modules that emphasize the mathematical methods that underlie modern biology.
One such firm, BioAnalytics Group LLC, has just expanded from 64 Main Street in Cranbury to Forsgate Drive in Jamesburg.
According to CEO G. Scott Lett, bioanalytics is an added, but essential step, for pharmaceutical companies hoping to do business quickly while avoiding setbacks and potential lawsuits.
His company uses computer simulations of laboratory experiments and patient responses to aid in predictions, data analysis, and experimental work in biology. Though comparatively new to biology, this type of analysis is commonplace in other fields such as aerospace, industrial design, and petroleum industries. “They would never build a spacecraft today without first having designed it on a computer and run simulated internal experiments with it,” says Lett. “This way you can optimize its design before even building an initial model.”
Having worked in the aerospace and petroleum industries, Lett decided to use computers for predicting results in biology. Ultimately he hopes that everyone working in research biology will adopt the approach of doing experiments on the computer before doing them in the laboratory. While this adds a stage to the process, it will ultimately benefit research and marketing.
Pharmaceutical researchers traditionally go through a lengthy process of compiling data in the laboratory before getting approval to try a compound for clinical trials. Sometimes, even after a compound has gone through a clinical trials and has been on the market, researchers discover that it is either not as effective as it should be or that there are some safety issues involved. Finding it out at this late stage can be extremely costly.
Merck’s recent withdrawal of Vioxx from the market — and the plethora of lawsuits it has been forced to fend off — shows how an emerging pharmaceutical product could have benefited from bioanalytic experiments. “We try to offer a systematic approach to anticipating any risks beforehand and helping companies to avoid this type of situation in the future,” says Lett.
Lett was born and raised in Colorado, where his father worked for AT&T’s cable division, and his mother worked in the magazine industry. His sister works in insurance and his brother is a dog breeder. Lett has three grown sons, all of whom are working in the arts, and his wife works for a software company in Marlton.
Despite being the only person in his family involved in the sciences, Lett says he had been devoted to them for much of his life. “There were a few teachers along the way who took an interest in me,” says Lett. “I initially was interested in botany and forestry, but as the years went on I gravitated to the physical sciences. In my mid-teens, still not sure where in the world of science that I fit in, I thought that if I learned the mathematics and computing part of it, I would be just fine in whatever I chose.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1982 and his PhD in applied mathematics at the University of Colorado at Denver. “The university is known for its focus on industrial and applied mathematics and in particular on computational biology,” says Lett.
For 10 years he worked for Martin-Marietta focusing on spacecraft and was a consultant for Boeing and NASA. For another 10 years he worked for Scientific Software-Intercomp doing computer simulation of fluid flow in petroleum reservoirs.
Lett moved to Princeton in 1999 to join a well-funded start-up company called Physiome Sciences. Formerly on College Road, it moved to Boston in 2003 and is now known as Epix Pharmaceuticals (www.epixpharma.com). “They were looking to hire someone who had experience in industrial super-computing and I was looking for an industry where simulation and modeling were needed but hadn’t really been adopted yet,” says Lett. “It was a perfect marriage.”
He stayed there until 2003 when he and his partner, Dean Bottino, spun off their new firm. “We pretty much worked as a two-person team, hiring people under contract when we needed them for special projects,” says Lett. In 2004 Lett bought out Bottino and continued to work independently with the occasional need for contract workers. At the end of 2005, the company started to expand and Lett started hiring, and he currently has a staff of five permanent employees.
Continuing to grow, the business required Lett to expand from his confines in Cranbury to the former headquarters of a trade magazine firm, Ascend Media, in Jamesburg.
According to Lett, the field of bioanalytics is wide open. “There are three or four other companies that we consider to be any kind of competition, but we have yet to come up in a competitive bid situation with another company,” says Lett. “Right now there is enough growth and enough space in the business that everybody has the freedom to operate.”
But that field may not stay wide open in the future.
The National Science Foundation grant is supposed to advance high school instruction in biology and mathematics by emphasizing the mathematical methods that underlie modern biology. The five-year grant, led by Rutgers, also includes the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications and Colorado State University.
The project aims to close a gap between high school math and biology instruction by creating materials that address mathematical principles of gene mapping, population trends, public health, and the spread of diseases, including such frontline news items as bird flu and bioterrorism. The grant will fund development of instructional modules that can be used without changing the curriculum. Teams of teachers, writers, and content experts will prepare modules, train teachers to field-test the materials, and evaluate the results.
The modules will focus on three major themes: computational molecular biology, including human genome sequencing; epidemiology, modeling the spread of a disease and the vaccination and quarantine protocols needed to combat it; and ecology and population biology.
Lett believes that the field will continue to expand in the coming years with bioanalytics becoming as ubiquitous as a test tube. It will be used, he says, in places like hospitals, doctors’ offices, direct research areas, and maybe in agriculture as well. “In the future there are going to be a lot of partnerships between companies and I really hope that we can grow in a way that we keep our sense of who we are as a company,” he says. “There is a reason why we do what we do.”
One of the more exciting facets of his job is the work being done on cancer research and immunology. Lett believes that using bioanalytics can be a great aid to the public interest as well as for researchers and corporations. “The role we have is helping do more on the computer so there is less trial and error in animal experimentation or humans,” he says. “We are working to address questions in human health as well as do it in a way that can we rely less heavily on things that can be destructive to animals or people.” — Jack Florek
The BioAnalytics Group LLC, 241 Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg 08831; 609-632-0091; fax, 609-632-1224. Scott Lett, CEO. www.bioanalyticsgroup.com
Qforma (formerly Commodicast), 20 Nassau Street, Suite 119, Princeton 08540; 609-921-7979; fax, 609-924-7491. Alan G. Reicheg, senior vice president of business development. Home page: www.qforma.com
One company that uses mathematical analysis to help pharmaceutical firms has just changed its name to reflect its pharma focus. The new name for a 20 Nassau Street firm, Commodicast (U.S. 1, September 21) will be QForma.
Commodicast Inc., an advanced analytics company headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has changed its name to Qforma, to reflect its focus on the pharmaceutical industry.
It took tools proven successful in the financial industry and re-designed them to work in the pharmaceutical industry. It mines data on the behavior of patients and physicians, detects patterns in their behaviors, and makes forecasts — all to help medical education firms and other pharmaceutical marketing service companies spend their dollars more efficiently (U.S. 1, September 20).
“Six years ago when CommodiCast was founded, we did not anticipate the demand we would receive from the pharmaceutical industry for our technology,” says Alan Reicheg, senior vice president for business development.
The new name more accurately describes the tools that the company provides to the pharmas. The “Q” represents a quantitative approach to solutions; “forma,” in Latin, refers to patterns or modeling.
“One of our slogans is ‘putting a little science in your marketing and putting a little math in your science,’” says Reicheg. He compares the work of the Bioanalytics Group to his own firm. “They are taking difficult-to-assess probabilities to lead them to additional clinical trials that might make sense.” In contrast, Qforma is working with lists of hundreds of thousands of doctors and identifying which doctors should receive which messages. “The modeling is the common link.”
Quatern LLC, 100 American Metro Boulevard, Suite 202, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-584-2650; fax, 609-584-2651. Scott McCarty, CEO. Home page: www.quatern-global.com
Scott McCarty expanded his firm from 3131 Princeton Pike to 26,000 square feet at American Metro Center. The growing firm has 30 workers here, and soon it will open an office in San Diego.
Quatern has technology for clinical trials — interactive voice response and web-based support solutions (U.S. 1, June 7).
Just as McCarty had a purpose for locating on Princeton Pike — to encourage everyone to work hard so they could move to more luxurious quarters — so does he have a reason for configuring his new space. Only four offices have doors on them, and no one has exclusive use of an office, including McCarty, who shares an office with John Bancroft, Quatern’s president. “I don’t like people to hibernate, I like the team mentality,” says McCarty.
Innophos Inc. (IPHS), 259 Prospect Plains Road, Building G, Cranbury 08512; 609-495-2495; fax, 609-860-0138. Randy Gress, CEO. www.innophos.com
The initial public offering of Innophos Holdings Inc. is scheduled for the week of October 30. Innophos hopes to sell 8.7 million shares, priced at $14 to $16, under the Nasdaq symbol IPHS. Bain Capital Partners owns 98 percent of the company, and the IPO is being managed by Credit Suisse, Bear Stearns, and UBS Investment Bank.
The IPO announcement says the company hopes to raise $130 million, but last July when it filed for the IPO, it had predicted it might raise up to $150 million.
Innophos is the largest North American producer of chemical grade phosphates for pharmaceutical and food manufacturers. Its specialty salts and specialty acids are used as a flavor enhancer in beverages, an electrolyte in soft drinks, a leavening agent in baked goods, and for other consumer products such as toothpaste. Recently introduced: a nutritional supplement and an additive to asphalt that allows roads to last longer in extreme temperatures.
Innophos’ CEO Randy Gress, 51, majored in chemical engineering at Princeton University and has a Harvard MBA. He has worked at Ford Motor Company and FMC Corporation, and he joined Rhodia in 1997. For 2005 he earned $375,000 plus a bonus of $93,750.
Innophos used to belong to Rhodia, a Paris-based chemical firm. In 2004 Rhodia sold its phosphates business to Bain Capital Partners. After Rhodia moved out of its former campus now owned by Preferred Real Estate Investments. Innophos became the only occupant.
New in Town
Chase Home Mortgage, 821 Alexander Road, Suite 140, Princeton 08543; 609-514-1043; fax, 609-228-4254. Barton Skurbe, regional manager, builder services division. Home page: www.chase.com
Barton Skurbe’s mission, in opening a Chase Home Mortgage office on Alexander Road, is to develop Chase’s builder-related business, educating builders and developers on mortgage products. “For instance, we have one for new construction that has a 12-month rate lock, and the rate can float down if the rate goes down,” says Skurbe. “With the slowdown in the real estate market, products like this move real estate more quickly.”
Jon Brush of Hilton Realty worked with Chase’s real estate department on the lease for 3,400 square feet on the first floor at 821 Alexander Road.
Skurbe has 15 years experience in the mortgage business. His interest in real estate was whetted by his grandfather, a real estate attorney. He took the mortgage side of real estate “because I like the financial aspect of structuring a deal.”
1-800-Got-Junk, 102 North Main Street, Suite 3, Hightstown 08520; 609-490-1045. Doug Martin, owner. www.1800gotjunk.com
In New Jersey it’s not that easy to go into the business of getting rid of junk. That’s why it took 1-800-Got-Junk a year and a half to officially start hauling, which it did at the end of June. First there’s the A901 license, which allows a company to use dumps to dispose of junk that is nonhazardous and nonliquid. Then there’s the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which proves that the business is providing a service to community. And, of course, there’s insurance in case something goes wrong — for example, if the company mistakenly picks up something hazardous. Also background checks and training had to be completed.
The business began in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1989; in 1999 it started franchising and now has 260 franchises in the United States plus those in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. “The business model is to go into people’s homes and businesses and give them their space back,” says Doug Martin, the owner of the New Jersey franchise. He and his wife, Teri, started with five employees but now have nine.
Martin’s firm hauls away nonhazardous items including, but not limited to, furniture, play gyms, suitcases, household items, backyard equipment, and yard debris. For residences, this can mean regaining the ability to park a car in the garage or space for children to play in the rec room.
Not everything goes to the dump, by a long shot. “As a company,” says Martin, “we donate and recycle 50 to 60 percent of what we pick up.” Martin will check with charitable organizations like Goodwill, Homefront, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, and the Trenton Mission with appropriate items. “Anything they can’t take that day, we dispose of at the Trenton dump.”
All electronic waste — computers, televisions, etc. — is recycled through reputable recyclers and disposed of properly; it is not dumped in the landfill.
Cost is based on the volume that items take up in the delivery truck. Two uniformed drivers will arrive at an appointment, estimate the cost of the job, and see if the customer is interested. When the job is over, the drivers do a thorough broom sweep and cleanup.
Martin started college at the University of Denver and finished at Rider University with a double major in finance and accounting. He has already had a few surprises. “It’s amazing what you see in places you expect it and places you don’t,” he says and enumerates several of the “strange things” they have picked up: prosthetic limbs; a truckload of sardines; a garage full of dirty diapers; and 150 empty boxes of pizza.
Once a hotel had carpets to donate — five tons on rolls — but the charities had no room for it, and it had to go.
— Michele Alperin
Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, 1860 House, Skillman 08558; 609-921-3272; fax, 609-921-8455. Home page: www.montgomerycenterforthearts.com
The board president of the Montgomery Center for the Arts, Margie Aretz, has taken over as the center’s de facto director. The former executive director, Frances Chavez, left in August, saying that she needed to spend more time with her family. Aretz is hiring a program director, at a lesser salary, and is tightening the purse strings.
MCA has four acres of land, nature trails, a pond, and a historic house. It mounts eight exhibits a year, has subsidized space for artists in residence, and runs classes for children and adults, events for the general public, and a summer arts camp.
“A nonprofit is not meant to not make money,” says Aretz. “It is meant to take money and invest it in programs. We feel the MCA is a treasure of magnificent people, programs and creativity. We aim to run this magical, sweet institution a lot more like a business, to perform more efficiently and productively, adding programs and engaging a driven, motivated, and technically professional board. We want to take MCA from wobbling on fiscally weak legs to a place where it can pack a punch.”
Margie Seman Aretz (pronounced like carrots) grew up in Great Neck, New York, where her father was an insurance broker. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1979, earned a master’s degree in public administration from New York University, and ran her own four-person company, Seman Realty & Management Co. Inc., to sell old industrial buildings for adaptive reuse. Her husband, Edward Aretz, founded the Seller’s Realty Group, now at the Carnegie Center. They have a preschool child. She took over as board president on September 1.
Lawrenceville Main Street, 17 Phillips Avenue, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-219-9300; fax, 609-219-9301. Art Schonheiter, interim executive director. Home page: www.lawrencevillemainstreet.com
Art Schonheiter will take over from Ann Garwig when she retires from Lawrenceville Main Street on November 2. Schonheiter’s title will be interim executive director for this volunteer-based organization, which is working to revitalize the village of Lawrenceville.
Apicore, 49 Napoleon Court, Somerset 08873; 732-748-8882; fax, 732-748-8929. Sanjay Bharvav, vice president of operation. Home page: www.apicore.com
Apicore will be moving out of its facility at 7 Deer Park Drive, Princeton Corporate Plaza, and it will consolidate operations at 49 Napoleon Court in Somerset. It develops and manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients for generic drugs.
EA Engineering, Science, and Technology Inc., 11019 McCormick Road, Hunt Valley 21031; 410-584-7000; fax, 410-771-1625. www.eaest.com
EA Engineering, Science, and Technology Inc. closed its temporary office at 3625 Quakerbridge Road in Hamilton on July 1, having finished a government contract in the area. The 10 employees have either moved back to headquarters in Maryland or to other locations.
For more than 30 years, EA has integrated science, engineering, and technology to provide solutions to water resource, environmental, and regulatory issues.
Patni Computer Systems Ltd./Data Conversion Inc., 5 Harborside Plaza, Suite 2910, Jersey City 07311; 201-680-7602; fax, 201-333-2180. Prasanna Satpathy, regional director. Home page: www.patni.com
Patni Computer Systems Ltd., an information technology company with sales offices in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific and eight offshore development centers in India, has moved its New Jersey office from 4390 Route 1 in Princeton to a larger space, 11,033 square feet, in Jersey City. The new office has 40 employees.
The firm’s headquarters is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It does software consulting, services, off-shore development, E-commerce, support and maintenance of applications, engineering data conversion, and CAD, CAM, and CAE services.
Antares Pharma Inc. (AIS), 250 Phillips Boulevard, Princeton Crossroads Corporate Center, Suite 290, Ewing 0868; 609-359-3020; fax, 609-359-3015. Jack E. Stover, CEO. Home page: www.antarespharma.com
Antares Pharma agreed to work with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. to develop and supply a new disposable injection device. Antares will receive an upfront cash payment, milestone fees, and a negotiated percentage of the gross profit.
Billtrust, 92 North Main Street, Building 19-E, Unit E, Windsor Industrial Park, Box 480, Windsor 08561; 609-580-0050; fax, 609-580-0041. Flint Lane, president. Home page: www.billtrust.com
In October Edison Venture Fund completed its $4 million investment in Billtrust, an outsourced billing solutions provider. The firm was founded by Flint Lane, who had also co-founded another online billing firm called Paytrust.
“With triple digit growth each of the last four years, we decided the time was right to seek outside capital,” said CEO Lane. “This financing will help us bring our message to a wider audience.” Chris Sugden, an Edison partner, is on Billtrust’s board.
Billtrust gives its small and medium-size business clients a way to convert to E-billing while still retaining its paper solutions. It has more than 150 clients that send their bills both through the mail and electronically via hosted web, E-mail, and fax solutions. According to Lane, his clients typically see an immediate savings of 20 percent to 30 percent, and these savings grow as the clients migrate to advanced electronic delivery.
Edison had also funded another Princeton-based financial technology firm, Princeton Financial, a 240-person company that is now a subsidiary of State Street Corporation. “Edison’s financial technology track record and Chris Sugden’s prior electronic billing and payment experience made our funding decision easy,” said Lane in a press release. Edison is the company’s sole institutional investor.
Universal Display Corporation Inc. (PANL), 375 Phillips Boulevard, Ewing 08618; 609-671-0980. Steven Abramson, president. www.universaldisplay.com
Universal Display Corporation has been awarded a $750,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop power-efficient WOLEDT (white OLED technology) for future solid-state lighting applications. Based on its proprietary technology, it aims to increase the power efficiency and operating lifetime of its designs.
Founded and incubated in the Princeton University laboratory of Stephen Forrest, the firm has 50 employees.