Corrections or additions?
These articles by Barbara Fox were prepared for the October 18,
2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Lavipharm Expands, Alters Course
When Lavipharm Laboratories cut the ribbon on its
headquarters on Princeton-Hightstown Road earlier this month (October
5) it also announced it had bought a French company and was going
in a new direction — changing the business plan so it moves away
from patch-type drug delivery. It has 50 employees at this location
now and expects to grow to 65 by the end of the year.
"There are 130 different drug delivery companies, and there is
not enough business for all to do patches," says Zsolt Lavotha,
president and CEO of the Greek-owned company. Instead of focusing
on transdermal and epidermal patches, Lavipharm is now doing particle
and formulation design, with a focus on molecule transport, and just
bought Separex S.A., a French company that is a leader in particle
"Separex’ technology is applicable to many areas, but the main
thing for us will be pharmaceutical particle engineering," says
Lavotha. "In the past it was used for, for instance,
coffee. Now it is sort of the `in thing’ in pharmaceuticals."
Drugs with specially designed particles may be able to be absorbed
better or be taken in lower doses with the same effect, resulting
in an improved side effect profile.
Separex, a 30-person, 15-year-old firm located northeast of Paris,
is known for its supercritical fluids (SCF) technology; it has the
know-how to design the particulates and the equipment to produce them.
"Once we design the particles we have the ability to manufacture
them ourselves, or we can transfer the technology to a big pharma.
I know of no other company in the world that can manufacture big
with this process," says Lavotha.
Lavipharm will, nevertheless, continue to work in the
area of conventional drug delivery, a currently popular choice among
pharmaceutical companies because of its shorter R&D cycle. "The
good news in our type of business," Lavotha says, "is that
we are not starting from scratch. Toxicity concerns are not an issue.
We have to make sure that after we take the particles and put them
in some kind of delivery system, that they have the same concentration
as the original molecules, but there is much less burden of truth.
It is less costly, too."
Although Lavipharm made its reputation on a type of drug delivery
system that works through the skin — transdermal and epidermal
patches — patches will now constitute only about 15 to 20 percent
of the business. Now Lavipharm will move into a field called
transport," a broader term that can encompass working with genes.
"The gene researchers are extremely clever in coming up with
but may not have figured out how to deliver them," Lavotha says.
Lavipharm has 60 to 70 patents. "On the product side we have
the nitroglycerine patch and the antiblemish patch. On the particle
engineering side, we are just starting to file the patents." It
has just sold a license for the anti-acne patch technology to Conopco,
a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever United States.
Lavipharm had paid about $4 million for the former Mettler Toledo
property at Route 571 and the One Mile Road extension and has made
extensive improvements worth from $2.5 to $3 million. The property
includes 27 acres plus 50,000 square feet of buildings: the 27,000
two-story office with canteen is now a state-of-the-art laboratory
for patch and molecular biology technology, plus offices for
worldwide corporate R&D, business development, and marketing and sales
teams outside of Greece. "Our warehouse has been completely redone
and will house pharmaceutical raw material, some materials for
drug delivery systems, and equipment for clinical manufacturing
Lavotha says. A machine shop remains as-is but may eventually be used
for some limited pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Lavotha himself did most of the interior design for the offices, but
Sweetwater Construction was the general contractor for this site and
did the fitout. Lavipharm’s accounting firm is Deloitte Touche, and
its web page is being redone by Philadelphia-based Dolan Sweeney.
An in-house corporate lawyer has just been hired from Warner Lambert,
but for patent law, Lavipharm turns to Dechert Price & Rhoads, and
corporate attorneys are Sherman & Sterling in New York City. Merrill
Lynch is Lavipharm’s advisor for acquisitions and structuring deals.
The location was chosen partly because of access to scientific talent
at Princeton University, and also because it is close to partners
and potential partners. "Our new state-of-the-art facility is
a major link in the chain of value we deliver to our partners —
pharmaceutical leaders like Novartis, Endo, Knoll and cosmetic leaders
like L’Oreal and Chattem," says Lavotha.
Sales for the global company last year were $250 million. The founder
and CEO, Athanse Lavidas, had established the company for the Greek
market in Athens in 1944. In the mid 1970s, Lavipharm built a plant
in Greece that permitted the company to include manufacturing in its
total marketing package. In the early 1980s, Lavipharm began doing
research and development on its own drug delivery systems, which
transdermal and epidermal products. In December, 1996, Lavipharm
acquired Scherpa Transdermals, a private drug delivery development
firm located in Piscataway, intended to be Lavipharm’s speedy entry
into the U.S. market, and the United States office opened in 1998
and 1999. Jeffrey Boily, former president and COO, was replaced by
Lavotha in January, 1999.
As a result of a global upbringing, Zsolt Lavotha speaks French,
Swedish, Hungarian, English, and some German. Born in 1950 in Hungary,
he grew up in Budapest, where his father was a language professor
and his brother a musical prodigy. In fact, he called on his brother,
now a cellist with the Royal Philharmonic in Stockholm, to provide
music, along with a pianist from Greece, at the opening. After leaving
Hungary his family lived in Finland and Sweden, where he received
his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and began to work for Pfizer,
moving to New York City in 1984. Now he lives in Paoli on
Main Line and is married to an Argentine woman who has a meetings
and logistics management company. They have a son at Babson College.
Lavipharm is publicly held in Greece, and Lavotha aims to go public
in this country in the next 12 to 18 months. "This is a very
industry," says Lavotha. "It is exciting when you can solve
problems. We just started to work with novel cancer molecules, and
it will be very rewarding if we can solve a serious problem."
— Barbara Fox
Road, East Windsor 08520. Zsolt E. Lavotha, president and CEO.
fax, 609-371-9174. Home page: www.lavipharm.com
08691. Joseph Mo, chairman, CEO, and president. 609-208-9688; fax,
609-208-1868. Home page: www.nexmed.com
Several Princeton area companies besides Lavipharm are working on
epidermal and transdermal applications, and one of them, Nexmed, has
received a patent on technology that promotes rapid penetration of
active drug ingredients through the skin. This NexACT patent, the
fifth for NexMed, underpins two of the company’s lead products —
topical creams for sexual dysfunction in men and women. The products
use NexACT technology to deliver alprostadil, a drug known for
NexMed stock was listed under the Nasdaq National Market as NEXM on
October 6. Before it was trading on Nasdaq Small Cap market.
Suite 206, Princeton 08540. Donald L. Drakeman, president.
fax, 609-430-2850. Home page: www.medarex.com
In an unusual example of crossing paths, Medarex has made a $5 million
equity investment in Oxford GlycoSciences Plc, a company based in
the United Kingdom that figures largely in the career of Dale Pfost,
the CEO of another Princeton-based biotech, Orchid BioSciences Inc.
on College Road. Medarex and Oxford GlycoSciences (OGS) will partner
in the discovery, development, and commercialization of fully human
antibodies as therapeutics.
Medarex does therapeutic product manufacturing, particularly human
and monoclonal antibodies. It has an operations laboratory and office
in Annandale and two of its founders, Donald and Lisa Drakeman, were
recently admitted to the Biotech Hall of Fame.
Oxford GlycoSciences does carbohydrate engineering and glycobiology,
and during eight years there Pfost did a company turn-around and
$6 million in private financing. Pfost left the UK three years ago
to take the top post at Orchid (U.S. 1, January 29, 1997).
OGS, now a public company, will be expected to tap its proteomics
platform to provide up to 30 protein targets for cancer or other life
threatening diseases. Using these targets, Medarex can work with its
HuMAb-Mouse and TC Mouse antibody discovery and development systems
to move potential products from the laboratory to the market.
Lane, Box 688, Plainsboro 08536. Stuart M. Essig, president/CEO.
fax, 609-799-3297. Home page: www.integra-ls.com (warning, this site
does not allow a return).
More than $16 million will come to the coffers of Integra LifeSciences
if and when a German company pays its just-imposed fine for patent
infringement. The amount is roughly what it would have cost the German
company, Merck KGaA (no relation to New Jersey’s Merck), for licensing
fees, plus interest. To Integra, this money — when and if it
arrives, after the appeals are over — would be equal to its
for the past quarter.
The research for this patent — on a class of compounds that affect
particular proteins on the surface of cells — was done in the
late 1980s in La Jolla, California, at the Burnham Institute. The
research was licensed to Telios Pharmaceuticals, later bought by
The German company had been negotiating with Telios to license the
technology but instead went on its own to develop something similar
and took the results, a cancer drug, as far as advanced clinical
So Integra and Burnham filed suit in 1996 to protect their patent.
Integra’s basic technology is tissue and organ replacements, including
artificial skin, cartilage, and nerve conduits.
CN 5308, Princeton 08543-5308. H. Joseph Reiser, president and CEO.
609-987-8200; fax, 609-750-8130. Home page: www.cytogen.com
Just after buying 900,000 shares of Cytogen stock for $6 million,
a Manhattan-based mutual fund announced it will buy an additional
$70 million of stock at a later time, as yet not decided. The price
to be paid by Acqua Wellington North American Equities Fund will be
just below the market rate on the day of sale. The $70 million will,
in effect, serve as an equity credit line.
Earlier this year Cytogen’s secondary public stock offering was
when the stock price went down. Also, a plan to buy Boston-based
Magnetics was changed. Instead, Cytogen bought two of the company’s
Cytogen markets and develops products for targeted delivery of
and therapeutic substances directly to sites of disease and has about
65 employees on College Road.
200, Princeton 08542. Carol J. Buck, CEO. 609-921-1101; fax,
Home page: www.xenna.com
Xenna has completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study
of NonyX Gel, which attacks nail fungus by removing the habitat where
the fungus thrives. "We consider NonyX Gel to work as an
agent rather than a traditional anti-fungal medication," says
Carol J. Buck, CEO. it works by penetrating the nail plate and
or softening keratin debris deposits where the fungus is harbored.
Bruce Bitcover, the Lawrenceville-based podiatrist who conducted
the study, says it is an "excellent alternative" to use for
diabetics, immuno-compromised patients, those on corticosteroids,
and patients with peripheral vascular disease.
Xenna is marketing the product on its website or by mail order for
a price of about $20 for a three-to-four month supply. From two to
five bottles would be needed for treatment. Buck is pursuing licensing
opportunities. The firm also markets shampoos and itch relief
The company headed by Dale Pfost has canceled a secondary stock
offering, due to market indications. www.orchidbio.com
Enamelon, the innovative toothpaste manufacturer, has received an
infusion of cash from Church & Dwight. www.enamelon.com
Corrections or additions?
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