This article was written by Barbara Figge Fox and Michele Alperin

Several times a year U.S. 1 gets a chance to step back and take a look at clusters of struggling high-tech start-ups that show promise. For instance, in our January Progress Edition, we list companies that sprouted or expanded in the previous year. The New Jersey Technology’s annual venture fair presents another opportunity for evaluations. The most exciting news, however, can be gleaned from the minutes of the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, which awards grants to promising companies twice a year.

In June the NJCST promised to disburse more than $5.3 million in awards, including monies for post doc fellowships, R&D funds, incubator seed grants, SBIR grants, and more. A good portion of those funds ended up in the central New Jersey region that has been dubbed “Einstein’s Alley.”

Among the recipients are companies with new ways to discover drugs more quickly, new ways to use windmills and fuel cells for producing and saving energy,and new ways to treat aching backs.

Fellowships

In an attempt to plug the “brain drain,” the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology is trying to help PhDs from New Jersey’s universities find jobs near their alma maters. The commission allocated nearly $1 million for 14 New Jersey Technology Fellowships, including 10 first year fellowships, at $75,000, and four second year fellowships at $85,000. To put this in perspective, the average base salary for New Jersey biotech workers last year was $86,800, with additional benefits of $11,800, according to Deloitte & Touche. The fellowships not only retain talent, they commercialize products.

Chromocell Corporation, 675 Route 1 South, Technology Center of New Jersey, North Brunswick 08902; 732-565-1113; fax, 732-565-1183. Christian Kopfli, CEO. Home page: www.chromocell.com.

Nobel prize-winner Guenter Blobel and Kambiz Shekdar came up with the cell-sorting technology that helped to form Chromocell Corporation in 2002. Now established at the Technology Center of New Jersey, Chromocell has grown to 30 full-time employees. It has just received $85,000 from the New Jersey Technology Fellowship Program to pay the salary for Kelly Corcoran, a second-year post doctoral fellow from UMDNJ.

Blobel won the 1999 Nobel in physiology/medicine for his discovery that proteins have intrinsic signals governing their transport and localization in the cell. The following year, in his Rockefeller University lab, he and his post doc associate, Shekdar, discovered the Chromovert technology. Now patented, this technology creates stable cell lines automatically and exceptionally quickly, thereby saving time during the drug discovery and development process. Blobel is the scientific advisor, and Shekdar (Rutgers, Class of 1995) is on Chromocell’s management team.

Unlike many start-up companies, Chromocell operates in the black and needs no outside funding. “All our growth has been financed by customer payments,” says CEO Christian Kopfli. Clients include those in the pharmaceutical and food industries, plus some academic institutions.

It can take weeks or months for Chromocell to process an order, says Kopfli. “We engage in complex research cooperation, with the help of pharmaceutical and food companies, to create intricate cell lines and assays.” Compensation might include fixed fees, royalties, and milestone arrangements.

Kopfli joined the company as a result of meeting Shekdar at a party. A native of Zurich, Switzerland, where his parents were in the book publishing business, Kopfli received both an undergraduate degree and a law degree from the University of Zurich in 1992, and he also has a PhD in law from the same university. He also has a master’s degree in law from Columbia Law School in New York City. He was a mergers & acquisitions lawyer at Davis, Polk, and Wardwell in New York City from 1998 to 2003.

The name of the company comes from the Greek word for color, and the cell sorter uses laser light to isolate particular cells.

Princeton Satellite Systems, 33 Witherspoon Street, Princeton 08542; 609-279-9606; fax, 609-279-9607. Michael Paluszek, president. Home page: www.psatellite.com.

Princeton Satellite Systems is another company that has enough cash flow to survive, but succeeded in extending its NJCST post-doc fellowship for a second year. Founded in 1992, PSS makes money doing software design and consulting for the aerospace and embedded controls industry. Pradeep Bhatta, who will earn $85,000 as a second-year fellow, works on what nobody will pay for — pioneering studies on wind energy, to develop a low cost, high efficiency, wind-mill style generator for mass deployment.

Wind-mill generators are controversial on the Delaware shoreline this summer, but CEO Michael Paluszek claims that the PSS version is esthetically pleasing. “People could plunk it in their back yard at a price point attractive for home owners,” says Paluszek. “It looks like a flag pole and is only slightly taller than a house.”

What aerospace has to do with wind-generated energy can be explained by the fact that most of the investigators here specialize in controls. Paluszek designed one of the first applications of active vibration control on a satellite. The son of a mechanical engineer at a refinery-building company, Paluszek went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Class of 1976), from which he also has a graduate degree. He made his major discovery at GE Astro Space in East Windsor, In 1992 he founded his own firm and moved it downtown in 1996 (U.S. 1, July 1, 2004). It has eight employees.

Bhatta was chosen for this fellowship because he had been working on controls for autonomous underwater vehicles. “Some of the algorithms he developed are applicable — to maximize the power output, to point the device in the best direction, to adjust the blades in the best direction,” says Paluszek. “We have the controls technology that other companies simply don’t have.”

Paluszek keeps his eight-person company downtown for convenient access to the university. For instance, with the university’s optics expert Michael Littman, he is working with NASA to develop a deep space navigation sensor. He is working with an Air Force research lab on a space craft project involving formation-flying satellites, and also with the Missile Defense Agency to develop controls.

“Even though we have bread and butter contracts in aerospace control, the post doc fellowship allows us to develop new technology, with the benefit of creating new industries and affecting global warming,” he says.

Orthocon, 675 Route 1 South, Technology Center of New Jersey, North Brunswick 08902; 732-683-9304; fax, 732-683-9476. Arthur A. Alfaro. Home page: www.orthocon.com.

Orthocon’s second year fellow, Ankur Gandhi, will work in the company’s main research area — products for orthopedic and spine surgery based on “Syntinate,” synthetic absorbable technology. It hopes to change the way patients are medicated for post-operative pain (U.S. 1, October 26, 2005).

This technology helps natural and synthetic orthobiologic compounds to absorb and release drugs in precise quantities. For instance, Orthocon combines a common painkiller, such as lidocaine, with a carrier material to make a cream or a putty like paste, similar to playdough. Surgeons apply it directly to the bone that has had the surgery. Currently surgeons can put the lidocaine directly on the site but it lasts only for a short period of time after the operation, whereas Orthocon’s product can last three days or eight days, or even up to six months. Orthocon also has patents for using a biomaterial for hemostasis (stopping bleeding).

Alfaro majored in computer science at the University of Maryland, Class of 1975, and has an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He worked for 11 years at a Johnson & Johnson firm, Ethicon, in Somerville, and has been a vice president at Boston Scientific Corporation, where he managed the microvasive endoscopy division. He was vice president of Sulzer Carbomedics in Austin, president of the thoracolumbar division of Medtronic Sofamor Danek in Memphis, and most recently was president and COO of Osteotech. He is married and has five children.

Co-founder Richard Kronenthal, the son of a millinery manufacturer, went to Brooklyn College, Class of 1951, and has his doctoral degree in organic chemistry from the Polytechnic Institute of New York. After a stint at Colgate-Palmolive, he spent 32 years at Ethicon, where he won the Johnson Medal for Research and Development. Among the successful products that he developed were Coated Vicryl and PDS Sutures. He has 20 patents, has been chairman or president for five companies, and is chief scientific officer and executive vice president of this one.

Alfaro and Kronenthal founded Orthotherapeutics in 2003 and invested $1.5 million in royalty profits in Orthocon, which they founded in 2005. Alfaro has his office at his farm home (167 Stone Hill Road, Colts Neck 07722) but Kronenthal opened a laboratory at the Technology Center of New Jersey in 2005.

Advaxis (ADXS), 675 Route 1 South, North Brunswick 08902; 732-545-1590; fax, 732-545-1084. Tom Moore, CEO. Home page: www.advaxis.com.

Kyla Driscoll Caroll of UMDNJ will get a $75,000 first year fellowship from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. Advaxis has therapeutic cancer vaccines that enhance immune systems’ cancer fighting abilities. They could also be helpful in the areas of infectious disease and autoimmune disorders (U.S. 1, January 17, 2007).

Advaxis is in the middle of its first human study, trying to determine the maximum safe dose of Lovaxin C for treating cervical cancer. “Unlike current products on the market, which are ineffective in women already infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), the cause of cervical cancer, Lovaxin C is designed to treat women who have already developed this cancer as a result of the infection,” according to a press release. The trial is being conducted in Israel, Serbia and Mexico.

Phytomedics Inc., 1085 Cranbury-South River Road, Suite 8, Jamesburg 08831-3410; 609-655-0715; fax, 609-655-0552. Bertold Fridlender, CEO. Home page: www.phytomedics.com.

Phytomedics, which develops botanical drugs, has $75,000 from the Technology Fellowship Program to pay for the first-year services of Caren Vilano, a post doc from Rutgers University. Phytomedics discovers, develops, manufactures, and commercializes new multi-component and multi-functional botanical therapeutics. Much of its research is conducted at Rutgers by Ilya Raskin, the founder and chief scientific officer.

Earlier in June CEO Bertold Fridlender announced an infusion of $9 million in series B financing. The round was led by Inventages Venture Capital Investments Inc. and Burrill & Company. Monies will be used for Phase III development activities for PMI-001, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis. The firm is also working on products for Type II diabetes, obesity, and age-related frailty.

“FDA defined botanical drugs are becoming a viable alternative to the creation of blockbuster pharmaceutical candidates, at development costs substantially below drug industry standards,” said Fridlender in a prepared statement.

Incubator Seed Fund

New Jersey thinks nurturing young companies in state incubators makes financial sense. NJCST awarded Incubator Seed Fund grants worth a total of $240,000 to five companies that are located in one of 14 technology incubators and commercialization centers around the state. Four of them are in central New Jersey. In addition to the Technology Center of New Jersey in North Brunswick, there are two in Camden, two in Mount Laurel, three in Newark, plus those in Bridgeton, Glassboro, Bordentown, Jersey City, Dover, and Plainfield.

Currently there are 600 incubated, emerging small businesses in the state that receive training and support, either virtually or actually in a bricks and mortar incubator. About 80 percent of them are science and technology based, says Michel Bitritto, assistant director of “Innovation Management” at the Enterprise Development Centers in Newark.

“The return on New Jersey’s investment in incubation is significant, quantifiable, and immediate,” says Bitritto, pointing to tax revenue and jobs. Last year these incubated companies generated more than $200 million in revenue and created 1,600 higher paying jobs plus nearly 100 internships. Through federal grants, venture capital, and angel or private investments, they brought in an additional $90 million, and less than 10 percent of that came from state grants and loans.

New Jersey is not alone in prizing its young companies. For instance, in Maryland, 17 incubators house 340 companies, and nearly 300 more companies have graduated into commercial space, with 85 percent of them staying in Maryland. In the last six months of 2006, incubator companies raised more than $13.5 million in grants and more than $107 million in equity funding.

Aestus Therapeutics, 675 Route 1, NJ Technology Center, North Brunswick 08902; 732-249-0690; fax, 732-875-0684. Tage Honore, CEO. Home page: www.aestustherapeutics.com.

Early in his career, Tage Honore was told by his elders that his research findings could not possibly be true. He proved them wrong. So when his employer downsized, he went off on his own to do something else unlikely — found a company that might fast-track discovery of new drugs to treat pain.

Aestus Therapeutics has received $44,704 from the NJCST’s incubator seed fund. A transitional medicine company focused on treatment of disorders of the nervous system, Aestus mines publicly available gene expression data to link diseases and biological pathways.

“We have a paradigm shift for finding new drugs,” says Honore (whose name is pronounced Tay Honor-ray). “Everyone screens new compounds. We screen diseases to find a biological basis for the disease. When we find a connection between the disease and the biology, finding a compound is easy.” Honore claims that he and his partner, Lillian Chiang, have found six biological mechanisms that underlie neuropathic pain and have never before been connected to neuropathic pain.

“All existing neuropathic pain products now work on ion channels, a little hole in the nerve where ions change the electrical properties of the nerve, thereby modifying the neuro transmission,” he says. “Most of the existing products are anti-epileptics and are used ‘off label,’ because their primary use is for something else. We don’t have a chance with the ion channels, so we screened the genome for neuropathic pain to find the six mechanisms.”

A native of Denmark, the 56-year-old Honore had previously worked at Novartis, Novo Nordisk, and Purdue Pharma. He has a pharmacy degree, a doctorate in medicinal chemistry, and a doctor of science degree in neurobiology, all from the Royal Danish School of Pharmacy. He also studied business at the Harvard Business School and the European Management Centre. He and his Danish wife, also a scientist, have three children, ages 3 to 15.

Honore’s once disputed discovery, as a post doc in 1981, is now acknowledged to be involved in epilepsy, schizophrenia, pain, and Parkinson’s Disease. In 2000 Honore left a job as senior executive vice president at Novartis in Switzerland. In 2002 Purdue Pharma asked him to open a 115,000 square-foot preclinical research lab at Cedar Brook Corporate Center. He hired 80 people for a world class discovery group, and in four years this group scored an unusual record — it discovered two products that moved to clinical trials.

But Purdue, a Connecticut-based family-owned business, derived 80 percent of its revenue from OxyContin, and because of generic competition, it had layoffs in 2004, slashing the Cedar Brook staff. (Purdue’s facility now numbers about 50 people, but many moved in from New York).

Lillian Chiang, whom Honore had hired to be responsible for molecular biology and genome activities, left Purdue with Honore to co-found Aestus and help bring drugs to the market faster and cheaper than is usual in this industry. “We did not want to wait,” says Honore. “We brainstormed and started to develop the process we have now. We use known technology in unusual ways.”

“She developed a proprietary method to combine and analyze data sets from three to five different sources, including our own,” says Honore. “From this we get very powerful datasets that reveal undiscovered biological pathways connected to a particular disease.”

Honore credits his original discovery to “a pioneer spirit. I wanted to do something no one else is doing. Now hundreds of thousands of people are working on the Ampa excitatory neuroreceptor,” says Honore. “It has been cloned and has been found in all the animal species.”

Treadstone Technologies Inc., 201 Washington Road, CN 5300, Princeton 08543-5300; 609-734-2368; fax, 609-734-2873. Gerald deCuollo, CEO. www.treadstone-technologies.com.

Earlier in the fiscal year this fuel cell research firm won a $50,000 NJCST Incubator Seed Fund grant for the Camden incubator. It also won “best clean technology” at the New Jersey Technology Council venture fair (U.S. 1, April 4). Now, with the June round of funding, it won a second incubator seed fund grant, this one for $46,000.

Treadstone aims to enter the “hydrogen revolution,” the push for automakers to produce hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars to meet zero-emission vehicle requirements in New Jersey and 10 other states. It has a corrosion resistant metal plate technology, used in fuel cell stacks, which are a component of fuel cell power sources.

Fuel cells qualify as “clean energy” because they produce minimum amounts of greenhouse gases and they don’t pollute. If fuel cells use pure hydrogen, only water and heat are the byproducts. They make electricity by combining oxygen with hydrogen (or hydrogen-rich fuel).

The Camden incubator is known by the acronym ACIN for applied communications and information networking, and it supports the U.S. military. Though CEO Gerald deCuollo is renting office space in Camden, the incubator does not yet have wet lab capabilities, so he is also still leasing space at Sarnoff.

The NJSCT monies don’t pay the rent for either location. That comes from the $400,000 in angel funding from Virginia-based Commerce International. Treadstone allocated January’s seed-fund grant for the corrosion-resistant metal plate technology, a far-forward scheme. The June monies will develop hydrogen generation for current commercial applications.

But the two technologies are synergistic, he says. “One of the components for a hydrogen power source is the ‘stack’ where the chemistry takes place. Our metal plate technology is associated with the stack, and the hydrogen source is synergistic with the stack. It is capable of being used in the current marketplace for hydrogen generation technology for electronics, medical, and refinery purposes.”

HMgene, 675 Route 1, NJ Technology Center, North Brunswick 08902; 732-246-5520; fax, 732-246-5338. Kiran Chada, chief scientific officer. www.hmgene.com.

HMGene has just received $50,000 from the NJCST’s Incubator Seed Fund Grant program. The firm does research on new therapies for metabolic disorders, focusing on obesity.

Switch2Health, Box 5027, Somerset 08873; 201-406-2057; fax, 732-332-0623. Seth Tropper, president. switch2health.com.

Switch2Health has joined the bevy of companies that aim to improve everyone’s health. Its particular mission is to promote physical activity in children and adults. It has received a $50,000 Incubator Seed Fund Grant from the New Jersey Center for Science and Technology to develop an initial product offering, geared primarily to children. It is similar to Princeton Living Well, the subject of U.S. 1’s June 20 cover story, because it will have an interactive web site and a reward structure, but Switch2Health will focus on products that monitor physical activity.

“The more activity you engage in,” explains Seth Tropper, who is the company’s president and cofounder, “the more points you will get, and these can be redeemed for discounts, goods, and services.” Tropper has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and applied statistics from St. John’s University in New York and a master’s degree in technology management from the Stevens Institute. Between college and graduate school, he spent about 10 years in information technology management at AT&T and IBM.

Tropper formed this company in 2006, after he sold Plasmasol, the medical technology company he spun out of Stevens Institute. He met co-founder Amado Batour two years ago, introduced by a mutual friend. They have two programmers working on the website and have outsourced engineering and product design. They are in discussions with potential customers who would deploy the device they are developing and provide a reward structure.

The firm has also been accepted at the Economic Development Authority’s Technology Center in North Brunswick and is currently in real estate negotiations with the center; Tropper hopes to move there in a month and a half.

The initial idea of rewarding people for physical activity came from Batour. “Given all the press, media, and statistics around overweight and obesity, particularly as it relates to children,” Tropper explains, “we tried to think about what we could do to get people moving.”

The pair are thinking big, pursuing questions like “What if the medical healthcare industry would provide a discount on premiums if people engage in a certain level of physical activity?” They believe their device and reward structure would also work well as an add-on to corporate wellness programs, which are “a huge industry,” says Tropper.

Innovation Fund

Of the $5.3 million dispersed this month, the NJCST put more than $2.2 million into commercializing promising technologies. The Edison Innovation R&D program gives grants for research and commercialization, and the $2.2 million leveraged another $1.5 million in private investment fund. In partnership with New Jersey research universities, it funds activities necessary for commercialization of an identified technology. Of the five grants, two went to companies at Princeton Corporate Plaza — Orthobond and Exsar.

Orthobond, 7 Deer Park Drive, Suite N, Monmouth Junction 08852; 609-688-0077; fax, 609-688-0041. Hans Hull, president. Home page: www.orthobond.com.

Sometimes a good idea results when a couple of people who know each other start batting around some ideas. When the wife of Greg Lutz, co-founder of Orthobond, was young, she lived next door to Jeffrey Schwartz and babysat for his kids. So when Schwartz started to have back problems, he went to Lutz, a noted physiatrist. “They started discussing issues with orthopedic medical devices,” says Michael Barden, Orthobond’s vice president for research and development, “and it evolved from there.”

They had some good ideas, did some projects, and eventually were able to patent some technologies in the late 1990s. Schwartz, a professor of chemistry at Princeton University, published series of papers, mostly about coating metal devices used for metal implants, an idea that Orthobond has used for hip implants. The company started at the university in 2004 and opened its laboratory on Deer Park Drive last year.

For its seed money, Orthobond sold equity to angel investors. Now the company has received $498,028 from the Edison Innovation R&D Fund. The monies will be split about 4 to 1 with Schwartz, who developed the base technology — a process for creating stable synthetic-biological interfaces, especially between medical devices and the human body.

Orthobond’s share will go for in vivo studies of its spine-fusion product for patients with late-stage disk disease; the goal of the fusion is to relieve pain.

The existing treatment for late-stage disk disease is surgical, an “instrumented fusion” that requires putting screws and rods into the patient’s back. Orthobond’s alternative procedure, which the firm calls “percutaneous biological fusion,” is a noninvasive procedure through the patient’s skin. A needle is inserted into the space between two disks, and, using a special set of very thin tubes the company has developed, the surgeon injects a gel that facilitates a spontaneous fusion of the disks by encouraging bone growth.

It has tested the tools developed for the procedure in cadaver studies and the injectable gel in vitro in the lab. Now it will test for safety and efficacy in animals, which is expected to take up to six months. Orthobond is particularly interested in the quality of the bone that develops after the injection; it is looking for hardened bone, not cartilage. Eventually it will move to small to medium-sized clinical trials in humans.

Although Orthobond has done animal studies for a related project, the percutaneous biological fusion procedure will be the company’s first major product.

As this product moves into the clinical stage, and later when the firm starts development on new products, it expects to expand its staff.

Earlier this year Lutz, who had been the president, decided to focus on his medical practice in New York, where he is head of physiatry at the Hospital for Special Surgery, but he remains board chair and chief medical officer. Hans Hull, an intellectual property attorney who has also done sales and marketing consulting, is now the president.

ExSAR Corporation, 11 Deer Park Drive, Suite 103, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-438-6500; fax, 732-438-1919. Bijan Almassian, president and CEO. Home page: www.exsar.com.

ExSar Corporation received $300,000 from the Edison Innovation R&D Fund, administered by NJCST. It also will get $75,000 under the NJ Technology Fellowship Program to fund the first year for post-doc Deepangi Pandit.

Founded by venture capitalist Robert F. Johnston as Carta Proteomics, it is one of the companies that claims to speed up the analysis and profiling of potential drugs (U.S. 1, June 26, 2002). Using proprietary methods of mass spectroscopy, it focuses on hydrogen deuterium exchange and structural activity relationships, such as misfolded protein disorders.

In April the Food and Drug Administration approved ExSAR’s investigational new drug application (IND) for the treatment of Adult Tay-Sachs. The firm is also working on drugs for Gaucher and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

It also offers its technology on contract basis and collaborates with Peter Lobel’s biological mass spectrometry facility at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, according to Bijan Almassian, ExSar’s CEO.

For two years Almassian has been working to transform the company from a platform based service provider to a drug development business. After majoring in chemistry at the University of Arak, Iran, he earned a master’s at Northeastern University and a PhD in medicinal chemistry the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, doing postdoctoral oncology research at Boston University Medical School. He was director of pharmaceutical development at California-based Genelabs Technologies, vice president at Vion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven, Connecticut, and president and COO of AlexiPharma, focusing on neuropathic pain and obesity. Most recently he was COO of Panacea Pharmaceuticals in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

SBIR Grants

When New Jersey companies get money from the federal government under the Small Business Innovation Research program, sometimes it takes a while for the checks to be cut. In those cases, the state sometimes hands out “bridge” grants. In June $200,000 was awarded to four companies under the program, and two were from Princeton.

Nova Photonics Inc., 1 Oak Place, Princeton 08540; 609-243-3463; fax, 609-243-2418. Fred Levinton, president. www.novaphotonics.com.

Nova Photonics has a $50,000 SBIR bridge grant. Operating out of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and sometimes working in collaboration with that lab, the firm has developed advanced plasma diagnostics for fusion. Now it is marketing its specialized tools to a wider range of applications.

Its SBIR grant, from the United States Navy, supports development of a wide field, high throughput, narrow band optical filter for submarine communication.

The president, Fred Levinton, is a fellow of the American Physical Society and received his doctorate in physics from Columbia University in 1983. Levinton says that his firm has completed Phase 1 of the project and has been notified by the Navy that it will be getting Phase 2 support. The bridge grant provides money to continue research during the gap between the two phases. The company now has seven employees and may hire a new person for this project.

Viocare Technologies Inc., 145 Witherspoon Street, Princeton 08542; 609-497-4600; fax, 609-497-0660. Rick Weiss, president. www.viocare.com.

Rick Weiss was on the cover of the June 20 issue as a co-founder for Princeton Living Well, but his first company, Viocare Technologies, continues to grow. Weiss is known in the Einstein Alley community for leveraging federal and state funding programs, and his most recent win is a 50,000 SBIR bridge grant from the NJCST.

Viocare develops health and nutrition software, including packages for research nutritionists.

Edison Fund Loan Invests in Signum

Signum Biosciences, 1 Deer Park Drive, Princeton Corporate Plaza, Suite L-2, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-329-6344; fax, 732-329-8344. Greg Stock, CEO. www.signumbiosciences.com

Along with the largesse of outright grants from the NJSCST, one Princeton-based biotech, Signum Biosciences, scored a $1 million loan. The loan came from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, through the Edison Innovation Fund.

Signum was incubated at Princeton University and founded by two brothers, Jeffrey and Greg Stock. They grew up in Arizona, Great Britain, and Baltimore, and both went to Johns Hopkins, graduating in 1968 and 1971 respectively. Jeff stayed in the lab and came to teach and do research at Princeton University, and Greg combined bio with business, turning his attention to public policy and writing popular nonfiction books (U.S. 1, June 30, 2004).

Using research on protein networks and cellular signaling imbalances, the company hopes to develop drugs for an array of diseases, everything from cardiac conditions and Parkinson’s to arthritis, cancer, and skin diseases. The core technology is licensed from the university.

“The Edison Innovation Fund investment will allow our company to accelerate its creation of new healthcare products and enhance its efforts to develop therapeutics for chronic illnesses that simply cannot be effectively treated today,” says Greg Stock, the CEO.

“Investing in Signum, a company dedicated to creating innovative healthcare products to treat and prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, is just one example of how the Edison Innovation Fund works to ensure that our technology and life science businesses are able to compete in the global, high-tech economy,” said Caren Franzini, EDA’s CEO, in a prepared statement.

The EDA manages the $150 million fund, and the fund leverages $350 million in private capital.

In exchange for a fixed interest rate for the five-year loan, Signum has agreed to create 13 new jobs within two years; it has 16 people now at Deer Park Drive. It was also successful, under the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology post-doc fellowship program, to extend its fellowship for Eduardo Perez for a second year.

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