Corrections or additions?
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
08648. David J. Livingston, president and CEO. 609-620-0220; fax,
Lane, Box 688, Plainsboro 08536. Stuart M. Essig, president/CEO.
fax, 609-799-3297. Home page: http://www.integra-ls.com.
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.
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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