Corrections or additions?
These articles by Barbara Fox and Michele Alperin were prepared for
the July 3, 2007 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Funding For Einstein’s Alley
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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,
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
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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
HMgene, 675 Route 1, NJ Technology Center, North Brunswick 08902;
732-246-5520; fax, 732-246-5338. Kiran Chada, chief scientific
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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.
Despite the federal government’s inability to get past a presidential
veto and dole out money for stem cell research, individual states are
doing that on their own. In June the New Jersey Commission on Science
and Technology doubled its funding for stem cell research and gave out
more than $10 million in stem cell research grants, including $5.5
million for core facilities at Rutgers and UMDNJ, and nearly $5
million in individual grants, including one to Sidney Pestka, right,
founder of a firm that spun out of Rutgers.
"The commission, through the Stem Cell Research Grant Program, is
proud to play a role in furthering Governor Corzine’s objective of
enhancing New Jersey’s position as a national leader in stem cell
research," said James Coleman Jr., commission chairman. "The program
provides an opportunity to conduct this cutting edge research right
here in the Garden State."
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Development Authority authorized $9.2
million for predevelopment funding of the New Brunswick Stem Cell
More than 73 investigators applied for 16 individual grants. Pestka’s
$300,000 grant was one of 11 grants given to researchers at University
of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and five more grants were
allocated to university researchers. At Princeton, Jonathan
Eggenschwiler won the money for a project titled "Control of the Sonic
Hedgehog Signaling Pathway in Neuronal Differentiation of Embryonic
Pestka will work on using stem cells to deliver biotherapeutics for
the treatment of cancers. The son of a Polish steelworker and tavern
owner, he graduated from Trenton High and majored in chemistry at
Princeton University, Class of 1957. After the University of
Pennsylvania medical school, he did research at the National
Institutes of Health and the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology. He
was the first to purify many of the human interferon alpha and
interferon beta species in the late 1970s and early 1980s (U.S. 1,
June 26, 2002).
Founded in 1990, PBL does R&D on interferons and other cytokines for
the treatment of cancer (U.S. 1, August 28, 2002.) Over the past five
years it has expanded from 25 to 40 people and now has 15,000 square
feet plus a lab at Rutgers.
PBL Biomedical Laboratories, 131 Ethel Road West, Piscataway 08854;
732-777-9123; fax, 732-777-9141. Robert Pestka, president and CEO.
Home page: www.pblbio.com.
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