Thales Nano Technology LLC, 7 Deer Park Drive, Princeton Corporate Plaza, Suite M-2, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-274-3388. Ferenc Darvas, president. Home page: www.thalesnano.com.
A minor irony in the world of pharmaceutical production is that while doses are measured in micrograms, production itself is sometimes measured in tons.
Traditionally, chemical production has been done on a large scale. Hungary-based Thales Nano Technology, which has opened its U.S. sales headquarters in Monmouth Junction, built its reputation by developing equipment that allows for much smaller — and sometimes significantly safer — production. Bill Heliman, a senior consultant and director of U.S. sales for Thales, refers to the company as “a small but leading player in the development of flow-through technology.”
Simply put, Thales makes the equipment that liberates researchers and chemistry companies from having to make enormous quantities of a product. You could either do one reaction in a huge vessel, Heilman says, or produce smaller, more controlled quantities as often as you need them. It not only saves space and can help reduce some very real dangers, it also means that researchers can work with smaller investments.
Thales first made its name on its H-Cube reactor, a compact hydrogenation reactor that quickly became a darling among smaller and medium-size pharmaceutical and chemistry companies. The process of hydrogenation is used in several industries, and is most well-known in the food industry, where products that need to stay moist and fresh are made more stable by introducing hydrogen into oils.
Designed for benchtop use rather than big production, H-Cube has sold primarily to the pharma market, Heilman says. Early success led to the development of the H-Cube Midi, which is the same machine, only one able to produce on a larger scale — kilograms and pounds rather than grams.
The company also has made headway in safety. Hydrogen, of course, is an exceedingly combustible element. In large-scale hydrogen production, tanks are stored and production conducted in facilities that need to be specially crafted to withstand a massive explosion. By reducing the process down to its smallest application, researchers using the H-Cube are able to generate only as much (or, rather, as little) hydrogen as is needed. “If you took a match to it, you might get a pop,” Heilman says. “Safety officers love us.”
Heilman says Thales grew from its Budapest roots quickly and that he convinced company founder and president Ferenc Darvas that the Princeton region was an ideal locus for its American sales. The strategy has paid handsomely — simply by being among them, Thales does business with some of pharma’s (and the region’s) biggest names — Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, and Schering-Plough. It also has carved a niche among smaller research and benchtop companies here and at the company’s other American office, in San Diego.
Heilman says Thales is working on crafting large reactors capable of commercial-level production. “We’re not quite commercial yet,” he says. Since the introduction of H-Cube, however, Thales has built the X-Cube, a reactor that does many things, but not hydrogen, and is developing the O-Cube, which will generate ozone as a reactant for oxidization.
Heilman, a semiretired chemist and salesman, spent much of his career at Wyeth, which is how he met Darvas and the officers of Thales. A doctor of chemistry himself (he earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State “years ago”) Heilman provides consulting services to several companies in the U.S., Europe, and India.