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These articles by Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on August 18,

1999. All rights reserved.

Biotech’s Microscopic Camera

In the race to invent tools for identifying genes and

their functions, several Princeton area companies are jockeying for

position. PharmaSeq is using light-powered microtransponders (U.S.

1, January 20); Orchid Biocomputer is using purified proteins or


assays on a microfabricated platform (U.S. 1, June 23 and November

18,1998); and now Praelux has entered the fray, aiming to


another kind of high throughput imaging (HTI) screening platform,

the Praelux 3000.

"We think the technology is unique," says David Livingston,

CEO of Praelux on Princess Road. "Our partners would use it to

determine the function of a gene."

The $500,000 Praelux 3000 package uses a digital camera made by


Instruments at 3668 Quakerbridge Road. Consisting of camera,


computer, and software, the Praelux 3000 takes rapid, sophisticated

electronic images of cells. A researcher may want to look for new

compounds that block growth or metabolism of the cell, or certain

effects of a certain cell. Current methods call for doing a


test in test tubes, showing how the drug works with a protein in a

solution, but the Praelux test can be done within the cell, to show

how the drug affects proteins within a body function.

The Princeton Instruments camera is a sensitive Charge Coupled Device

that is part of a microscope; it captures the images on a microtiter

plate, a plastic dish with 96 or more different wells. The microscope

moves the plate, images one well after another, and the camera


the image on a computer, which does the calculations almost


"This all happens blindingly fast," says Livingston, "in

less than one second per well."

The cells tested might come from a person, as with testing a cancer

patient’s biopsy more quickly and in a more sophisticated way. Or

the cells could be pharmaceutical products, modified to grow very

quickly, as with cells developed to study the AIDS virus. "With

our method, you can watch the process in real time versus inspecting

the results when it is done," says Livingston.

Founded as SEQ Limited by venture capitalist Bob Johnston, the firm

was incubated in Johnston’s Cherry Valley Road office and leased space

at Sarnoff Corporation before moving to Princess Road. It changed

its name and its mission when David J. Livingston became president

and CEO. Single molecule sequencing, its original mission, is now

a secondary goal to generating near term income with the High


Imaging Platform technology. Stimulated by the promise of new venture

funding and the ability to generate its own income, it has grown from

15 to 20 employees since March and plans to generate up to 38 new


An alumnus of University of Massachusetts, Class of 1977, Livingston

earned his PhD at the University of California at Davis. He did post

doctoral studies at Hopkins and at MIT and did protein engineering

research for three years at the large Boston-based firm, Genzyme,

and was a founding scientist at Vertex, where he stayed for 10 years.

During that time he earned an MBA at Northeastern University.

Though Praelux’ high throughput technology is being developed here,

the working capital is coming from both New Jersey and the West Coast.

Praelux has negotiated a $1.5 million line of credit from


Silicon Valley Bank and has received loans totaling $750,000 through

the Technology Funding Program of the New Jersey Economic Development

Authority (NJEDA), also funded by Silicon Valley Bank. With this


Silicon Valley Bank joins seven other banks in this NJEDA program

to encourage emerging technology firms to locate and expand in New


Silicon Valley gets active in coordinating venture funding, and is

willing to be creative in structuring financing, says Livingston.

"If the bank were to use the normal sort of guidelines, our


would have difficulty, but Silicon Valley is very innovative in this

regard," he says. From a Philadelphia office Ash Lilani has been

making loans to various New Jersey firms, but Livingston worked with

Phil Ernst, of the bank’s office in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

"We had been negotiating with another bank but Silicon Valley

was willing to be more creative and work with us," says


As for potential sales: "There has been an enthusiastic


says Livingston, "and we are in serious discussions with several


— Barbara Fox

Praelux Inc, 17 A Princess Road, Lawrenceville

08648. David J. Livingston, president and CEO. 609-620-0220; fax,


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More Biotech Grants

Integra LifeSciences Corporation (IART), 105 Morgan

Lane, Box 688, Plainsboro 08536. Stuart M. Essig, president/CEO.


fax, 609-799-3297. Home page:

Announced this week: Integra LifeSciences has received a $251,148

grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop artificial

skin. The firm works on tissue and organ replacements, including


skin, cartilage, and nerve conduits. It reported a net loss of $3.6

million for the quarter, compared to $3.2 million last year. The


plans a buyback of 500,000 shares.

Small Molecule Therapeutics Inc., 11 Deer Park

Drive, Suite 116, Monmouth Junction 08852. Prabha Fernandes Ph.D.,

CEO. 732-274-2882; fax, 732-274-0086.

The privately-held drug development company will receive a $94,102

grant from the National Institutes of Health to research protease

inhibitors for antiviral therapeutic values.

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