Sometimes adversity creates opportunity. In Suzanne Gibson’s case, being downsized from a big pharmaceutical company last year gave her the chance to expand the small business that she had run out of her home for more than 10 years.
That company, GSG Scientific, located on Deer Park Drive in the Princeton Corporate Center since last September, gives Gibson the opportunity to work in two areas she loves — information research and laboratory work. GSG performs literature searches in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and healthcare databases, and also has a small laboratory that provides research services specializing in troubleshooting technical issues.
As for the information research, GSG has access to some 500 subscription databases. Gibson says that she is able to save clients time based on the ability to search through the databases quickly and efficiently.
“Some of these databases are coded,” she says. “If you are a professional searcher you can search use chemical coding, or a database’s command language. We can do something very comprehensive and very focused very quickly.”
Much of GSG’s database work deals with patent searches and many of the company’s steady customers are in the pharma field. One of the searches, for example, can compare a molecule that a client has created and find out if that molecule has been patented by someone else. “They give me what the molecule looks like and we upload the image into specialized databases where we then do a search,” says Gibson.
Another search involves pharmacovigilence — the FDA-mandated process of keeping track of adverse events associated with a drug, starting with clinical trials and continuing through its entire life cycle. GSG can conduct a search in pharmacovigilence databases and give a report on product safety records.
GSG can also check for companies, what they sell, and the research they conduct. For example, says Gibson, a pharmaceutical client might be interested in moving into new field and they want to know other companies that are also involved in that area.
Another type of research is a “landscape search,” says Gibson. “A researcher might be put in charge of a new project, he is not familiar with the field, and he wants to know everything. We can put together a landscape report, which can tell them things like the history of the field and identify the big players involved in it. If it’s a drug or medical device, you can tell them what’s on the market, what their competition would be, and who has most of the patents. We deal with scientists in early stages of drug development and help steer them into a direction where there aren’t so many patents.”
GSG holds subscriptions to numerous databases and charges clients for the searches it conducts. “They pay an hourly fee for search time plus whatever access to the database costs. Depending on what they need we can also analyze results for them.”
Gibson, who now lives in Piscataway, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, into a family with a science background. Her father was executive director of the Tuberculosis & Lung Association on Long Island and her mother was a nurse who worked until she was 70 years old.
Carrying on the family tradition, Gibson’s husband is a chemist, her older daughter recently earned a PhD in microbiology, and her youngest daughter earned a degree in biology and is focused on ethno-biology — the study of the ways that different cultures use their environments for food and medicine.
Gibson holds a bachelors in chemistry from Pratt Institute and a masters from Long Island University, Brooklyn. She earned a PhD in biochemistry from Rutgers. Her first job was as a lab technician at Columbia University, followed by a stint at Ciba-Geigy, which is now Novartis. After earning her PhD, she was a research assistant at UMDNJ for two years before going to work at Sanofi, the pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Gibson started GSG as a home-based business in 2000 with her thesis advisor, who is no longer involved with the company. She continued to operate the company on a small scale until she was laid off by Sanofi when it closed its site in Bridgewater in 2012. Gibson says she decided to expand operations at GSG rather than seeking work at another pharmaceutical company.
“It gives me more control, the ability to work on my own projects, and do work managing information, which I find to be very important,” says Gibson. “People are bombarded with information all the time, but they aren’t always getting quality information. It’s important to me that the they get the facts.”
Gibson is the only employee of the company, and does most of the database searching, but she also hires consultants for lab projects who are experts in their fields.
Gibson says the fact that she has “always kept keep my hand in laboratory work” was another driver for her to expand the company. In fact, most of GSG’s current funding comes as a result of its research projects. “It enables us to be able to charge less for the search part of the operation.”
Gibson says she can’t name clients that GSG is working with for confidentiality reasons, but she can talk about the research she is conducting with them. One of the projects deals with a chemical called lycopene, which is found in tomatoes and red fruits and vegetables. “It has health benefits but it is tricky to analyze. We are looking into new methods for analysis of the chemical.”
Another project, this one for the food industry, involves the use of coacervates, which Gibson explains are “microparticles made out of proteins, basically. They feel to the mouth like fat.”
The third project, which Gibson says she is “very attached to,” is for a group that is working in Haiti to develop sustainable fish farms. The fish are not only a source of food in the country but the farms can provide an income for fish farm owners and workers.
The problem, says Gibson, is that commercial fish food is too expensive to make the farms economically viable. “We are trying to develop a fish food that can be made from the native tropical plants. It’s not an easy thing. You can’t just feed leaves to the fish. The food has to be balanced. Once they are able to get fisheries going, the hope is that they will be self sustaining.”
GSG Scientific LLC, 11 Deer Park Drive, Suite 102-A, Monmouth Junction 08852; 866-201-8528. Suzanne M. Gibson, owner. www.gsgscientific.com.