Biotech Round-Up — Bioinformatics

Gene Sequencing for Humans

Gene Sequencing: Agribusiness

Transgenic Animals

Corrections or additions?

These listings were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on December 8,

1999. All rights reserved.

Biotech’s Vibrant Merry Go-Round: Part I

What’s the definition of a biotechnology company? The

word biotechnology apparently used to refer to any company that used

animal-related or human-related technologies to devise therapies or

drugs. But now the definition has become so broad that the joke

definition

is: A biotech is a drug company too poor to be a pharmaceutical.

Some Princeton area biotechs hope to make hay in the high profile

area of genetic technologies (see the story on Orchid, page 14, and

the profile of Genome Pharmaceuticals Corporation, page 57). Princeton

also boasts a long list of other biotech companies — not only

the gene sequencing companies but also the bioinformatics (anything

combining biology and computers), the targeted drug developers, the

combinatorial chemists, and the drug delivery companies.

In what is almost an embarrassment of riches, this list — nearly

40 companies in all — does not include Princeton’s important

handful

of imaging firms (including Nycomed Amersham, Bracco Diagnostics and

Bracco Research) and more than another handful of dermatology and

tissue product companies (Integra Life Sciences on Morgan Lane,

Lavipharm

Laboratories on Princeton-Hightstown Road, U.S. Dermatologics on

Franklin

Corner Road, NeoStrata on College Road, and Galderma and Hydro Med

Sciences — both on Cedar Brook Drive.

Also not mentioned here are the assortment of neutriceutical and

generic

drug manufacturing firms, such as Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals on College

Road, Guardian Drug in Trenton, Invamed in Dayton, OHM Laboratories

on Black Horse Lane, Universal Laboratories in New Brunswick, Sabinsa

Corp at Princeton Corporate Plaza, or Xechem, on Jersey Avenue.

Because this survey is focussed on biotechs and not the deep pocketed

big Pharmas, the list does not address the research activity at

Bristol-Myers

Squibb, even though that firm’s Princeton-based research effort

includes

some of the same areas being pursued by the biotechs.

Two years ago Bristol-Myers Squibb hired Elliott Sigal to create the

department of applied genomics. Last month B-MS upped its ante in

the pharmacogenomics race by announcing a partnership with

Boston-based

Millennium Pharmaceuticals and pay a minimum of $32 million over five

years to use Millennium’s "molecular fingerprinting"

techniques

to study the makeup of tumors. Rather than "prescribing blind"

or, at best, testing a prospective drug treatment on a breast cancer

tumor specimen was obtained in a biopsy, the Millennium technique

would let doctors evaluate the effectiveness of a particular drug

by looking at the genomic makeup of the patient. It is a risky gamble,

said a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, because no other major

drug maker "has bet so heavily on emerging gene discoveries to

guide such a large segment of its business."

And two major Princeton-based research centers are actively working

in these fields, as well.

Princeton University may not have a medical school, but it aims to

be a leader in genomics on all fronts. For instance, President Harold

Shapiro was appointed to head the gold-star ethics commission that

was convened to react to the cloning of Dolly the Sheep.

Now a 1961 alumnus, Carl C. Icahn, has given $20 million for an

interdisciplinary

Institute for Integrative Genomics to be built adjacent to the

molecular

biology labs. The Carl C. Icahn Laboratory, to be completed by early

2002, will accommodate 12 faculty members and more than 100 students,

postdoctoral scholars, and technical support staff, says Shirley

Tilghman,

the founding director. Icahn has a firm specializing in real estate

development, oil and gas, railcar leasing and manufacturing, and

technology

firms.

And just as this issue was going to press we discovered another

exciting

new company, destined to be a Sarnoff spinoff. Orchid Biocomputer

started out this way. Now the Sarnoff Corporation is getting ready

to announce the formation of Locus Discovery, which uses proprietary

algorithms for drug discovery. "If you give the algorithm the

three-dimensional structure of a protein, it will issue a

comprehensive

list of drug compounds that will bind to the appropriate sites on

the protein," says spokesperson Tom Lento. "It can greatly

limit the search of drug compounds by specifying the sites of the

protein where the drugs can bind."

John Kulp and Frank Guarneri conceptualized and pioneered the protein

probing technology and delivered credible predictive results, says

Satyam Cherukuri, managing director of Sarnoff’s life sciences and

systems endeavors. Scientists have been struggling with this idea

for 30 years, and IBM just announced its $100 million plan to build

a supercomputer, Blue Gene, to identify therapeutic targets by

predicting

how chains of amino acids will fold. "We believe the Locus

approach

solves many of the problems that have thwarted others," says

Cherukuri.

"We believe that faster computation is not the total answer, but

that one must understand thermodynamics and the fundamental physics

of the process," he says, noting that he is employing an eclectic

team of biologists, physical scientists, and engineers. "IBM is

going to spent $100 million on this problem, but we believe we already

have some of the answers."

Sarnoff is also incubating PowerZyme, which takes a biological

approach

to rechargeable batteries, and is also doing contract work for three

of its biology-oriented spin-offs, Delsys and Orchid, and SongBird,

which is working on hearing aid devices. For PharmaSeq, it is

designing

and making the transponders that send coded identity of DNA sequences

to a receiver.

Top Of Page
Biotech Round-Up — Bioinformatics

Compugen, 7 Centre Drive, Suite 7, Jamesburg 08831;

609-655-5105; fax, 609-655-5114. Founded 1993. Simchon Faigler, vice

president, technology. Staff size: 5. Square feet: 3,600. Home page:

http://www.cgen.com.

Compugen offers a virtual biocomputing platform for life sciences

industries that involves molecular biology, computer science,

statistics,

and physics (U.S. 1, June 2, 1999). With a total of 90 employees here

and in Israel and Massachusetts, it has licensed gene identification

technologies to Parke-Davis of Warner-Lambert. The chief competitor

is Lion Bioscience, but others include Pangea Systems and Millennium.

To prove its computer results are correct, it set up a real

"wet"

molecular biology laboratory and found that 95 of 100 genes identified

by its algorithms were verified as predicted. The Evergreen Fund is

one of its investors, and it has a $25 million capitalization.

Congenomics, 114 West Franklin Avenue, Straube

Center, K1,10, Box 314, Pennington 08534; 609-737-6383; fax,

609-737-7528.

Founded 1998. Robert Bruccoleri, president.

http://www.congenomics.com.

Congenomics has open source programs for bioinformatics and protein

modeling — plus consulting and software development for genomics,

structural biology, and computational chemistry. Congen is the

molecular

modeling program, and SEEBUGS (software for the examination,

exploration,

and broad understanding of genome sequences) identifies essential

genes in microbes.

Physiome Sciences 307 College Road East, Princeton

08540; 609-987-1199; fax, 609-987-9393. Founded 1994. William A.

Scott,

CEO. Staff size: 18. Square feet: 8,000.

http://www.physiome.com.

This company develops computer-based models of human organs (U.S.

1, May 13, 1998).

Top Of Page
Gene Sequencing for Humans

GPC USA, a private firm based in Germany, see page

55.

Interlink Biotechnologies LLC, 221 Commons Way,

Montgomery Commons, Building 2, Princeton 08540; 609-252-0446; fax,

609-252-9416. Founded 1991. Ramon L. Garcia, president. Staff size:

9. Square feet: 2,000. http://www.interlinkbiotech.com.

This consulting group, which also has an office in California, does

biotechnology assessment, planning and transfer, and also microbial

products and services. In gene discovery it is working on natural

products. In agriculture biotech it is working on food and feed. Its

antimicrobial peptides can be used as disease resistance genes in

transgenic crops.

PharmaSeq Inc. 11 Deer Park Drive, Princeton

Corporate

Plaza, Suite 204, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-355-0100; fax,

732-635-0428.

Founded 1997. Wlodek Mandecki, president and CEO. Staff size: 6.

Square

feet: 1,500. http://www.pharmaseq.com.

PharmaSeq offers instrumentation for diagnostics and assays for drug

discovery. Its unusual approach, covered by two patents, involves

reusable, light-activated microtransponders coupled with DNA probes.

Fluorescently-labeled sample DNA binds to the probe. As the

probe-transponder

passes a laser, fluorescence is detected and the light powers the

transponder to send a radio signal.

Last month PharmaSeq announced it could demonstrate radio frequency

communication between a microchip (microtransponder) prototype and

a radiofrequency receiver, proving that the microtransponder can

develop

sufficient power to broadcast signals to a nearby antenna and meeting

the goals required by its $2 million, three-year grant from the

Advanced

Technology Program at NIST. (U.S. 1, January 20, 1999).

Praelux Incorporated) 17 Princess Road, Suite A,

Lawrenceville 08648; 609-620-0220; fax, 609-620-0222. Founded 1991.

David J. Livingston, president. Staff size: 20. Square feet: 15,000.

http://www.praelux.com.

Praelux has breakthrough technology for high throughput screening

and DNA sequencing for drug discovery. Formerly known as SEQ Ltd.,

its products include confocal fluorescence microscope for high

throughput

screening and image analysis software.

Seed stage financing has been received from Johnston Associates, an

early-stage venture capital firm. Other investors include Allen &

Company Incorporated, several institutions, and various individuals.

Praelux was awarded an NIH grant for its sequencing program and has

corporate collaborations with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Astra Zeneca.

Top Of Page
Gene Sequencing: Agribusiness

Celgene Corporation/Celgro (CELG). 661 Route

1 South, Technology Center II, North Brunswick 08902; 732-509-2020;

fax, 732-509-2022. George W. Matcham, senior vice president. Staff

size: 20. Square feet: 18,000. http://www.celgene.com.

Celgene’s agrochemical subsidiary, Celgro, develops more effective

crop protection agents. With enzymatic production it can make chemical

herbicides and pesticides that are twice as potent as with the usual

methods. The Celgro lab moved to the New Jersey Technology Center

this fall.

Merial Limited 681 Route 1 South, Technology Center

of NJ, North Brunswick 08902; 732-729-5700; fax, 732-729-5015. John

Chintall, laboratory operations manager.

http://www.merial.com

Merial, a Merck and Rhone-Poulenc company, does R&D on veterinary

pharmaceuticals and vaccine for companion animals, livestock, and

poultry at this site. In addition to gene sequencing, it also does

targeted drug development, drug delivery, and bioinformatics. Its

scientists focus on both new and existing products for companion

animals

(including dogs, cats, and horses) and livestock (such as swine and

cattle). Novel products under development include Frontline (for

control

of fleas and ticks on dogs and cats) and Ivomec products, for

controlling

parasites in livestock (U.S. 1, March 31).

Senesco Technologies (SENO), 34 Chambers Street,

Princeton 08540; 609-252-0680; fax, 609-252-0049. Phillippe

Escaravage,

CEO. Http://www.senesco.com.

Senesco hopes to enhance crop quality and productivity by genetically

extending the shelf-life of plants. It works with two aging

(senescence)

genes, one encoding DHS (deoxyhypusine synthase) that regulates gene

expression and another enclosing a lipase that actually causes cell

and tissue death. Initially, scientists at the University of Waterloo

in Canada are working on the leaves of Arabidopsis plants and on three

crops — tomatoes, bananas, and carnations. It did a reverse buyout

with a shell company to become public and had a stock split effective

in October.

Christopher Forbes, vice chairman of Forbes Magazine, is on the board

of directors, as is Thomas C. Quick of Quick & Reilly/Fleet Securities

and Reudi Stalder, former CEO of Americas Region of Credit Suisse

Private Banking.

Top Of Page
Transgenic Animals

DNX Transgenic Sciences. Stock symbol: PHXI. 5

Cedar Brook Drive, Princeton 08512; 609-860-0806; fax, 609-860-8515.

Founded 1985. Mark E. Swanson, vice president transgenic sciences.

Staff size: 45. Square feet: 12,000. http://www. dnxtrans.com .

DNX researches and develops therapeutic products and biological

testing

services based on transgenic animals. It offers transgenic

technologies

for evaluating new drugs. It can genetically engineer rodent models

with human genes to exhibit genetic targets of human diseases. It

licenses its proprietary DNA Microinjection technology used to develop

transgenic animals.It is a subsidiary of Phoenix International in

Montreal.

Nextran, 303 B College Road East, Princeton

Forrestal

Center, Princeton 08540; 609-243-0009; fax, 609-520-9864. Founded

1994. Marvin L. Miller, president and CEO Baxter/Nextran. Staff size:

47. http://www.baxter.com/xenotransplantation.

Nextran does research on xenotransplantation — across species

transplantation — and is wholly owned by Chicago-based Baxter

Health Care Corporation. Nextran researchers have genetically

engineered

pigs to express human complement regulatory proteins on the surface

of their organs, in order to make the organs more resistant to the

challenges of the human immune system. They inject human genes that

control these proteins into one- or two-cell fertilized pig embryos.

The transgenic pigs that result possess the human proteins necessary

to bypass the system, called the "complement cascade," that

attacks foreign matter in the body.

Early next year Nextran hopes to conclude a four-year Phase I clinical

trial using transgenic pig livers as an ex vivo (outside the body)

support system for patients with acute liver failure. The pig liver

bridges the gap between organ failure and finding an appropriate human

liver for transplantation. (More than 13,000 people are on the waiting

list, and 1,319 people died waiting for a donated liver). The trial

is the first step toward the ultimate goal of using genetically

altered

pig organs for transplantation into human patients. By mid 20001 it

hopes to submit to the FDA a protocol recommendation for a Phase I

in vivo (inside the body) clinical trial.

In 1994 Nextran was formed as a partnership between DNX Corporation

and Baxter, based in Chicago. The following year Baxter acquired

Nextran.


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