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
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
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,
Laboratories on Princeton-Hightstown Road, U.S. Dermatologics on
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
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
Squibb, even though that firm’s Princeton-based research effort
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
Millennium Pharmaceuticals and pay a minimum of $32 million over five
years to use Millennium’s "molecular fingerprinting"
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
Institute for Integrative Genomics to be built adjacent to the
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
the founding director. Icahn has a firm specializing in real estate
development, oil and gas, railcar leasing and manufacturing, and
And just as this issue was going to press we discovered another
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
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
how chains of amino acids will fold. "We believe the Locus
solves many of the problems that have thwarted others," says
"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
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
and making the transponders that send coded identity of DNA sequences
to a receiver.
609-655-5105; fax, 609-655-5114. Founded 1993. Simchon Faigler, vice
president, technology. Staff size: 5. Square feet: 3,600. Home page:
Compugen offers a virtual biocomputing platform for life sciences
industries that involves molecular biology, computer science,
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
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.
Center, K1,10, Box 314, Pennington 08534; 609-737-6383; fax,
Founded 1998. Robert Bruccoleri, president.
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
modeling program, and SEEBUGS (software for the examination,
and broad understanding of genome sequences) identifies essential
genes in microbes.
08540; 609-987-1199; fax, 609-987-9393. Founded 1994. William A.
CEO. Staff size: 18. Square feet: 8,000.
This company develops computer-based models of human organs (U.S.
1, May 13, 1998).
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
Plaza, Suite 204, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-355-0100; fax,
Founded 1997. Wlodek Mandecki, president and CEO. Staff size: 6.
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
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
sufficient power to broadcast signals to a nearby antenna and meeting
the goals required by its $2 million, three-year grant from the
Technology Program at NIST. (U.S. 1, January 20, 1999).
Lawrenceville 08648; 609-620-0220; fax, 609-620-0222. Founded 1991.
David J. Livingston, president. Staff size: 20. Square feet: 15,000.
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
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.
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
of NJ, North Brunswick 08902; 732-729-5700; fax, 732-729-5015. John
Chintall, laboratory operations manager.
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
(including dogs, cats, and horses) and livestock (such as swine and
cattle). Novel products under development include Frontline (for
of fleas and ticks on dogs and cats) and Ivomec products, for
parasites in livestock (U.S. 1, March 31).
Princeton 08540; 609-252-0680; fax, 609-252-0049. Phillippe
Senesco hopes to enhance crop quality and productivity by genetically
extending the shelf-life of plants. It works with two aging
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
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
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
services based on transgenic animals. It offers transgenic
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
Center, Princeton 08540; 609-243-0009; fax, 609-520-9864. Founded
1994. Marvin L. Miller, president and CEO Baxter/Nextran. Staff size:
Nextran does research on xenotransplantation — across species
transplantation — and is wholly owned by Chicago-based Baxter
Health Care Corporation. Nextran researchers have genetically
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
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
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.