Corrections or additions?
These articles were prepared by Barbara Fox for the May 18, 2005
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
Smart money likes Celator Technologies, which aims to create a new
medical standard for chemotherapy by controlling the ratios of various
chemo therapeutic agents. It remains to be seen whether the big
pharmaceutical companies will embrace this standard.
Celator, headquartered in Research Park, has raised a whopping $40
million for its oncology technology. Among the investors were Domain
Associates, venture capitalist at Palmer Square, and the Garden State
Life Sciences Venture Fund, a fund managed by Quaker Bioventures in
which the New Jersey Economic Development Authority is the sole
limited partner. This round of funding represents one of the largest
venture capital investments in biotechnology in the North America for
the last 12 months.
"We are pleased to announce this initial investment, positioning
Celator to advance its innovative oncopharmaceutical technology in New
Jersey with financial support from our fund," said EDA Chief Executive
Officer Caren S. Franzini in a prepared statement.
"I believe we have raised this amount of money because the investors
understand it enables us to introduce a new medical standard," says
CEO Andrew Janoff. "At the end of the day it allows us to produce
products to more effectively treat cancer."
Celator began in 2000 as a spinoff of the British Columbia Cancer
Agency with a laboratory in Vancouver. With the second round of
funding, it moved the headquarters to Princeton, where it plans to
build its pharmaceutical, clinical, and development operation. "It is
the heart of pharma in North America," says Janoff. "That’s how we
will implement an aggressive R&D schedule."
Celator named Janoff chairman and CEO in 2002. A Yardley resident, he
divides his time between this office and the company’s Canadian
headquarters. Known as a founder of the Liposome Company (later bought
by Elan), he went to American University and has a PhD in biophysics
from Michigan State. Currently he is an adjunct professor at Thomas
Jefferson University Medical College, is a visiting research
collaborator in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Princeton
University, and is editor of the Journal of Liposome Research.
The technology that everyone is so enthusiastic about is elegantly
simple. Known as CombiPlex, it takes current chemotherapeutic agents
and reconfigures the combinations. This approach seeks to modify the
existing cancer chemotherapy discovery process by fixing the ratios at
which drug combinations act to kill tumor cells.
"Our proprietary technology recognizes and controls the critical role
of drug ratios in combinations of chemotherapies," Janoff says. "Most
cancers are treated with combos of drugs. These ‘cocktails’ are
developed by combining agents of non-overlapping toxicity so that each
can be given at maximum dose. We think that standard is out of date
because it fails to recognize the role of drug ratios."
Chemotherapy agents, he says, can act synergistically at ideal ratios.
"We lock them in carriers to maintain the ratios and treat the cancer
systematically." Carriers could be liposomes, polymers, or
"Before, oncologists did not focus on ratios nor did they have the
ability to maintain them," says Janoff. The ratios will be decided by
in vitro tests and use of algorhythms, he says.
Janoff has staked out a surprisingly broad territory for his
intellectual property. He claims that even the general concept – the
idea that using a ratio might be useful – has a potential patent,
which means that any pharma who wants to use the idea will have to pay
for it. Among the 18 patents that have been applied for include some
on how to compute the ratio, and some that tell how to deliver the
"First we’ll focus on generic combos for tumors that are inadequately
treated," says Janoff. "Building on that focus, we will develop new
combinations of existing drugs, then develop combos from entirely new
drug agents. We have an almost unlimited pipe line." Phase I trials
for colorectal cancer are being conducted in Canada at McGill
University and the British Columbia Cancer Agency.
Janoff believes the $40 million cash infusion will take the first
product, for colorectal cancer, through phase II trials, and the
second product (for acute myeloid leukeumia) into phase II trials, and
the third product (a platinum combination) into phase I trials.
Janoff professes not to be worried where ensuing dollars will come
from because he is counting on pharma companies to do licenses,
partnerships, and joint ventures. But having been burnt numerous
times, the pharma companies can be expected to adopt a "wait and see"
stance. For oncology, the "wait and see" time frame can be an extended
If Celator does succeed in eventually establishing a new standard of
chemotherapy, the pharma companies will have no choice but to get in
line to buy it. And Janoff does not rule out going public if the Phase
II results are excellent.
"The level of interest we have seen in this current round of funding
is extraordinary. Investors appreciate that the company will introduce
a new medical standard and create an entire new generation of
products," claims Janoff. Nicole Vitullo of Domain Associates and
Brenda Gavin of Quaker BioVentures are now on Celator’s board, as is
another new investor, Marc Ostro of TL Ventures. Like Janoff, Ostro is
a Liposome Company veteran; Ostro was Liposome’s first employee.
Early funders who also contributed included Ventures West, Growthworks
Capital, and the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Celator won’t save any time in the approval process by employing
already-approved drugs. "We have limited the risk somewhat because we
are dealing with drugs and combos already approved and accepted as
standard of care for tumors, but we can make the combinations five to
10 times more effective," says Janoff. "It’s a real privilege to work
in this area because ultimately we can do a lot of good."
08540. Andrew Janoff, CEO. 609-430-1100; fax, 609-430-9995. Home page:
After starting and selling Enzon – New Jersey’s first successful
biotech – and after incubating his next company at his home, Abe
Abuchowski is taking Prolong Pharmaceuticals to the next level. He
based both Enzon and Prolong on a breakthrough discovery in his PhD
thesis on how polyethylene glycol (PEG), a unique polymer, can be
attached to proteins to deliver drugs in more effective, less toxic
Earlier this year he moved the two-person Prolong from a small lab in
Lucent’s former complex at Carter Road to 3,300 feet on Deer Park
Drive, where he expects to hire two more people in a couple of weeks.
The firm is financed by Manhattan-based KVL Healthcare Ventures to the
tune of $1.5 million, and Abuchowski envisions an additional $6.5
million coming in.
Abuchowski’s claims have the ring of believability. Sometimes known as
the "godfather of biotechnology in New Jersey," he grew up on a
chicken farm in Vineland, went to Rutgers Camden, Class of 1970, and
earned his Rutgers PhD. In 1994 he helped found the Biotechnology
Council of New Jersey and was its first chairman. He and his wife (a
PhD communications candidate at Rutgers) live in Califon and have two
Abuchowski’s PEGylation technology attaches the special polymer to a
protein to extend the circulating life of a drug; this combination
requires smaller amounts of the drug, eliminates allergy problems, and
alleviates the active ingredient’s toxicity. "PEGylation solves those
problems in one fell swoop," he says.
Enzon was the state’s first biotech to get FDA approval for a new
product; among its successful drugs are Oncospar, which countermands
the severe allergic reaction experienced by children receiving
leukemia treatments, and an interferon formula, licensed to Schering
Plough, which has captured 65 percent of the market.
Abuchowski sold the Piscataway-based Enzon in 1996, opened New
Paradigm Consulting, and started plans for Prolong Pharmaceuticals,
all from a home office where he was able to be with his children, now
in high school and college. "I was able to see my kids grow up," he
Abuchowski moved to Princeton Corporate Plaza, more than an hour’s
drive from Califon, because there wasn’t an appropriate laboratory
closer to his home. Triad Properties helped Abuchowski find the space
and the landlord, Harold Kent, whom Abuchowski terms "fantastic."
One future product with a huge potential market is erythropoietin, a
lucrative biopharmaceutical that stimulates the pre-cursors of red
blood cells to combat anemia. Anemia typically accompanies
chemotherapy. The two current erythropoietin products (Amgen’s Epogen
and Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit) have combined sales of nearly $7
billion, but the patents are short-lived. Abuchowski has developed a
PEGylated version of erythropoietin (PEG-EPO) that he expects will
quickly penetrate the market and outpace competitors.
Also in the pipeline are products for liver cancer and hypovolemic
shock, bleeding that can occur on battlefields. For the latter
condition, AfterShock has a PEGylated hemoglobin base and would be
injected into the blood.
Abuchowski also expects to be able help big pharmaceuticals with other
patents for blockbuster drugs that are scheduled to expire.
Didn’t Abuchowski’s own patents expire? Yes, he says, "but I have the
know how. The people who do well with this technology are the people
who have experience in applying it."
Monmouth Junction 08852. Abraham Abuchowski, CEO. 732-438-1133; fax,
Sopherion Therapeutics, a biotech that focuses on anti-cancer
therapies, has its own strong connection to the former Liposome
Company. After the sale of Liposome to Elan, and after the FDA failed
to approve a breast cancer drug called Myocet, the drug found its way
to a new company, Sopherion. Sopherion’s CEO, Ronald H. Goldfarb,
landed $47 million in Series B venture funding and moved the firm to
Princeton Overlook late last year.
One of the lead investors in the Series B funding was Marc Ostro,
co-founder and president of the former Liposome Company, now a Main
Line-based venture capitalist with TL Ventures.
Goldfarb negotiated an exclusive licensing agreement with Zeneus
Pharma Ltd. to commercialize Myocet in North America with hopes of
launching it in Canada by the end of June. Myocet still has to
traverse the regulatory path in the United States.
Myocet contains doxorubicin, which can be dangerously toxic to heart
muscles. Myocet reduces the toxicity by encapsulating the
doxorubicin-citrate combination in a liposome (a microscopic vesicle
with separate compartments, each with membrane walls composed of
fats). Myocet has been approved in Canada for first line therapy in
combination with cyclophosphamide for patients with metastatic breast
"Having worked on the development of this therapy at the Liposome
Company, I understand its significant potential impact on patients not
only suffering from metastatic breast cancer, but also a wide variety
of other neoplasms," said Ostro in a prepared statement.
In addition to TL Ventures, contributors included the Sprout Group,
ProQuest, Canaan Partners, HealthCap, NewSpring Ventures, Commerce
Health Ventures, and Seaflower Ventures.
100, Princeton 08540. Ronald H. Goldfarb, CEO. 609-986-2022; fax,
609-986-2038. Home page: www.sopherion.com
Chemical engineers Gregg Jablonski and Michael A. Mastropietro opened
an office last year at Princeton Corporate Plaza to develop nano
particles for printed electronics – circuit boards, RFID, antenna, or
interconnect systems. Their company: PChem. So far it has two major
clients (including Sun Chemical and a Japanese firm) and just signed a
licensing agreement with a Pennsylvania firm for producing RFID tags.
Patents were filed last year on PChem’s nano powder and more are
forthcoming. "Instead of a straight printing process, we use a
build-up process, where our material is used as a seed layer," says
The three-person firm estimates this year’s sales to be $900,000 and
projects that the break-even point will be in 2007, with $1.4 million
in sales. It is competing this month for angel investment through
Jumpstart New Jersey and has applied for a Ben Franklin Technology
Partnership, which, if it comes through, could trigger a move to
"Based on the simplicity of how it is made, we think our material is
commercially competitive," says Jablonski. "Our competitors have more
processing steps," says Jablonski. Another advantage is that PChem’s
particles are water based. "Environmentally it is safer than a solvent
system using a flammable chemical – it processes faster and achieves
higher conductivity than competitive matrial."
Jablonski grew up in New Hampshire, where his father taught math,
majored in chemical engineering at the University of New Hampshire,
Class of 1980, and has a PhD from Worcester Polytechnic. He worked for
DuPont in Philadelphia and did R&D for Mobil in Paulsboro, then moved
to Mobil Chemical in 1996. Jablonski’s wife works for Merrill Lynch
on the Hopewell campus.
Both Jablonski and Mastropietro, a chemical engineer from Penn State,
Class of 1998, worked for Paul Kydd on Crescent Drive at Princeton
Business Park in Rocky Hill. Kydd founded Partnerships Ltd., which
later became Paralec, and Kydd is also working in the RFID arena.
"Mike and I saw the opportunity in dealing with smaller particles,"
says Jablonski. They are developing the particles on Deer Park Drive
and can produce up to 50 kilograms per month here. "When we get to
larger scale manufacturing, hopefully in the near future, we will need
to expand." The firm would require an additional 10,000 square feet to
manufacture up to 500 kilograms per month.
Jack Kerrins, just hired as chief operating officer, went to College
of New Jersey, Class of 1976, and the University of Delaware. He has
taken two companies public – Newtown-based ICT, an outsourcing firm
with businesses on four continents, and Manhattan-based register.com.
John Belasko of Fox Rothschild is the firm’s attorney, and Buzz
Woodworth, of Woodworth Realty LLC, secured the space on Deer Park
Offers to get grants by staying in New Jersey or moving to
Pennsylvania are frustrating, Jablonski says. He thinks the two states
should take a regional approach. Funding based on political
boundaries, he says, "drives me crazy. You are only talking about a
Monmouth Junction 08852. Gregg Jablonski, CEO. 732-329-0090;
VaxInnate Corporation, a private biotechnology company in Cranbury
developing a vaccine for influenza and West Nile virus, has
established its corporate headquarters in Cranbury. VaxInnate is
developing proprietary technology that was created in 2000 by Yale
University-based Ruslan Medzhitov and Richard Flavell to produce
preventative vaccines and immune therapies for infectious disease and
VaxInnate employs 15 people at the 20,000 square foot corporate
facility it leases from A.M. Todd Associates on Cedar Brook Drive. The
facility provides 15,000 square feet of laboratory, production and
manufacturing space. Another 11 employees do research in New Haven,
"We decided to move our headquarters to New Jersey to be closer to
pharma country," says Nancy Gray, vice president of corporate
development and operations. "This location puts us closer to our
customers and potential employees."
Two programs currently in development include a West Nile virus
vaccine scheduled for Phase 1 clinical trials in mid-2006 and an
influenza vaccine scheduled for Phase 1 clinical trials in the first
quarter or 2006.
Gray leads the corporate facility along with David Jackson, vice
president of process development and manufacturing, and Jeff Powell,
vice president of research. CEO Carlo Russo has left the company for
personal reasons. A successor will be hired eventually but not
imminently, says Gray. The company recently hired two new employees
and has three open positions, with more to come.
Last year the company announced $23.1 million in Series B funding from
CHL Medical Partners in Princeton, which led the financing, and
HealthCare Ventures, Oxford Bioscience Partners, and MedImmune
Ventures. With cash on hand of $16 million, the company does not
intend to pursue financing anytime soon.
Gray, who joined VaxInnate last year, holds a BA in chemistry from
Bucknell, and a PhD in medicinal chemistry from the University of
Illinois. Prior to that she was employed by Delsys Pharmaceutical in
Monmouth Junction. She lives with her husband, Steven, and their two
daughters in Cranbury.
The technology differs from other vaccines in that VaxInnate combines
chemical structures of the adaptive immune system to interact with
structures that stimulate the innate immune system, to make a
stronger, longer lasting vaccine with a quicker onset. The company
holds patents, as well as patent applications for its innate immunity
Next steps include pre-clinical safety testing of both vaccines, as
well as producing the vaccines under good manufacturing practices
"Traditional vaccines stimulate the adaptive immune system. We don’t
just work with the adaptive system, we stimulate the innate immune
system, that every animal in the animal kingdom is born with, and
couple it with the adaptive system," says Gray.
Jackson, vice president. 609-860-2260; fax, 609-860-2290.
Nita Wright, a former senior manager of advertising and marketing at
RCN Telecom Services, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against her
former employer. "RCN intentionally retaliated against Ms. Wright for
exercising her family and medical leave rights," says Wright’s
attorney, Hanan Isaacs, based at Princeton Professional Park.
According to Isaacs, Wright gave birth to a baby girl in the fall of
2004, and while she was out on maternity leave she was told her job
had been eliminated. Isaacs claims that RCN transferred all of
Wright’s work to her back-up employee, posted a new job on the RCN
intranet, and filled the job with the back-up employee.
The attorney cites the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, the New
Jersey Family Leave Act, and the "clear mandate of public policy."
"Since Nita was eminently qualified to perform both the ‘old’ and
‘new’ jobs, RCN had a duty to advise her of the opportunity to bid on
the new job," says Isaacs.
Six years from now, commuters from Bucks County may be crossing over a
nine-lane bridge on I-95 at Scudder Falls instead of the congested
four-lane bridge there now.
The two-year construction project will cost $195 million and is
supposed to begin in 2009. It will widen the 50-foot bridge to nearly
140 feet. One of the five new lanes will be an exit lane for Route 29.
Three of the new lanes will be on the New Jersey-bound side, because
the morning commute is significantly worse than the evening one.
According to the schedule, four lanes of traffic will be available at
all times. When the new bridge has four usable lanes, the current
bridge will be taken down.
Donald B. Everman, 61, on May 13. He was the owner and operator of
Signs Etc. at Princeton Service Center and was active in Rotary.
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