The University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) announced its surprise decision after a night meeting on Monday, November 28: It wants to buy FMC’s 155-acre site on Route 1 North for its new 800,000 square-foot medical facility. FMC’s 210 employees learned the news on Tuesday, November 29.

The prospective FMC site, three miles from UMCP’s current site, is north of the Sarnoff Corporation and opposite Ruby Tuesday’s. Its borders are the Millstone River, Route 1, Scudders Mill Road, and an access road built 10 years ago between Scudders Mill and Plainsboro roads. It is accessible from Route 1 North via Plainsboro Road, which bisects the property. It has three other access points but no direct access to Route 1 South.

It has no immediate residential neighbors, which the medical center may have viewed as a plus, given that speculation concerning its possible relocation to Canal Pointe Boulevard in West Windsor triggered immediate protests from residents there.

"The Plainsboro Road site is in the center of our traditional service area and the majority of our patients. It is also an area with the fastest growing population in this region. This site offers us close proximity to hotels and conference centers, as well as the calm beauty of open space and a river," said medical center CEO Barry Rabner in a press release.

Once the hospital makes its move to Plainsboro, its facilities in Princeton Borough will be adapted for reuse – mostly as housing. At a press conference Tuesday, November 29, the UMCP announced that a Philadelphia developer specializing in adaptive reuse of hospital properties, Lubert-Adler, would purchase the existing medical center campus on Witherspoon Street. It expected that it would be converted into residential living units, with some neighborhood-oriented retail and office space, including some medical offices. Lubert-Adler has worked with architect J. Robert Hillier in the past, and Hillier did the concept design for the Witherspoon site.

The hospital announced also that it was in negotiations with Princeton University for the sale of the Franklin Avenue parking garage and the Merwick Unit on Bayard Lane. If the purchase were made, the university’s possible uses for the land would include additional housing for faculty, staff, and graduate students, and possibly affordable housing for the community.

Saying it has outgrown its downtown Princeton location, UMCP wants to build an 800,000 square-foot medical facility to house both a new 269-bed hospital and medical offices. It may want to expand to 1.2 million square feet, but it is not clear whether the FMC site, so close to the river, could get approvals for that expansion. After approvals are obtained, construction would probably take three years. Rabner estimates the cost to be $350 million, including land, construction, equipment and technology, and fees.

The Washington, D.C., office of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, a 1,700-person global firm known for its healthcare practice, has been named to design UMCP’s new center, in conjunction with Alexander Road-based Hillier architects. The design would be environmentally friendly (adhering to concepts of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED). It could also be innovative, because UMCP will work with the Pebble Project, a research effort launched by the Center for Health Design, to measure how design can make a difference in the quality of care and the financial performance of an institution.

The other often-predicted choices for the new medical center were Princeton University’s land north of Forrestal Village or Carnegie Center West. And the FMC choice is not a slam dunk. FMC has only a letter of intent from UMCP, and UMCP officials only recently began discussing the FMC site with Plainsboro.

"This is just the beginning of the process and there are a number of issues that need to be addressed," says Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu. "I’m optimistic they’ll be worked out. From everything we’ve seen so far, this is an institution that wants to work with the town. But these things are not easy, and we have a long way to go."

Issues include the traffic impact of building a hospital on the site, which currently has no access to Route 1 south, and how the plan fits into the township’s future.

Another factor is the affordable housing impact on the township. Under new state regulations, any developments constructed in town – including non-profits like hospitals and schools – add to the township’s obligation to provide affordable housing. And since the hospital is a non-profit, it would not be required to pay property taxes. "We will need to look at trade offs as far as the tax base is concerned," says Cantu.

In November, 2003, FMC had fervently denied that it would even consider selling its property to UMCP. "We are not going to sell and never have considered selling," the FMC facilities manager told the West Windsor-Plainsboro News. But an insider at FMC says now that employees were often told their campus was up for sale, that the land was valuable, and the company wanted to get out of the real estate business.

FMC would have nearly two years before it would have to move personnel, according to what 100 employees learned in an early morning meeting in the cafeteria on Tuesday, November 29. If FMC cannot rent back its current space, it plans to move elsewhere in Princeton, they were told.

"It was not a real big surprise to any of us," says an FMC insider, "that FMC would rather have the cash. The last time our CEO came he made it very clear; the campus is underutilized."

FMC has 13 buildings sprawled over a campus that it has occupied for 50 years, and many of them are nearly empty. It leases space to other companies in its building that fronts Route 1. Behind that is the laboratory that houses most of the agricultural chemical group employees. On the other side of Plainsboro Road, bordering the river, is the biopolymer division. Other groups on this campus are the chemical products group, safety security and risk services, and corporate engineering. The main office is in Philadelphia.

The Medical Center’s existing Witherspoon campus has 510,000 square feet and 850 physicians, an increase of 200 in the last two years. The hospital is nearing capacity, Rabner has said. "There are days when we are virtually full."

New Programs in Neuroscience

Neuroscientists have always been interested in the workings of the human brain, but now mathematicians, physicists, engineers, computer scientists, and economists are getting into the act. That the human brain is a sizzling hot new frontier for scientific exploration can be confirmed by the number of ongoing neuroscience programs, 300 of them, according to the Society for Neuroscience.

Simultaneously, two prestigious neuroscience institutes are being created in New Jersey. Princeton University will found one, and a consortium of institutions in Newark (NJIT, UMDNJ medical school, and Rutgers/Newark) will establish the other. Both will emphasize interdisciplinary research.

But while Princeton has to go out and look for money, the Newark group has already landed $1 million over three years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. HHMI put out a call for proposals for interdisciplinary research last year and gave out 10 grants.

The Princeton Institute in Neuroscience hopes to bring facilities and teaching laboratories under one roof, similar to what was done at the Icahn Laboratory on Washington Road, home of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. Psychology professor Jonathan Cohen and molecular biologist David Tank put together a proposal last spring and will co-direct the institute. Faculty members from mathematics, physics, computer science and economics are already conducting research with applications in neuroscience. Fundraising has begun.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Rutgers-Newark, and the UMDNJ Medical School will also develop a quantitative neuroscience PhD program that will integrate mathematics, biomedical sciences, and computation. "With their physical proximity and close ties among the faculty, these three institutions will create a unique environment unparalleled in interdisciplinary neuroscience training," says Robert Miura of NJIT, who will co-direct the program along with Joshua Berlin of the medical school and James Tepper of Rutgers-Newark.

The Howard Hughes institute, based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, selected the Newark group and nine others from a pool of 132 applicants to get $1 million for interdisciplinary research.

"Life science PhDs do not speak the language of the physical sciences," says Jennifer Donovan, communications officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She uses "vector" as an example. To an engineer, a vector is an angle, but, to a biologist, a vector is anything that carries a disease, like a mosquito. "There is a great need for research scientists to learn to talk across about the disciplines."

The other Howard Hughes winners were Brandeis (quantitative biology), Carnegie Mellon (computational biology, working with University of Pittsburgh), Johns Hopkins (nanotechnology), University of Chicago (biophysical dynamics and self-organization), University of New Mexico (interdisciplinary biomedical sciences), and the University of Pennsylvania (clinical imaging and informational sciences). Separate grants went to University of California locations in Irvine, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Both programs are interdisciplinary; the Princeton program has 50 PhD candidates from seven departments. One obvious difference between the Newark program and Princeton’s is that Princeton’s undergraduates can participate. It enrolls 30 students annually in its undergraduate neuroscience certificate program.

Tepper, of Rutgers/Newark, says the Princeton program is significantly different from the consortium’s: "Our program draws from 3 otherwise independent institutions, Rutgers-Newark, UMDNJ-NJMS and NJIT. Each of these research institutions offers special and complementary strengths not found in the others. Most importantly, the NJIT/UMDNJ/Rutgers program is principally a graduate training program rather than a research program per se. Its principal goal is to train interdisciplinary investigators who are just as facile with the issues and techniques of quantitative and/or computational approaches as they are with biology."

Princeton University is not shy about saying that its neuroscience research will be both novel and effective, even though it does not have a medical school. "Whenever there are fields like this one that are at the intersection between pure science and some work that goes on in medical schools, we always ask how Princeton can do this best so that our absence of a medical school becomes an advantage for us rather than a disadvantage," said Christopher Eisgruber, provost, in a prepared statement.

"The Princeton neuroscience group has a spectacular history of experimental innovation, and strength in theory and computation that runs from math and physics to biology and psychology," said Rockefeller University’s Cori Bargmann in the press release. Bargmann was on the external review committee that said Princeton should establish the institute. "Some of the most influential and provocative theories about the nervous system have been generated by Princeton scientists. What’s special here is the extent to which theory and experiments will inform and challenge each other."

Princeton’s engineering school can be mined for quantitative methods that might work in neuroscience. "Having access to the sorts of tools that engineers have developed for studying complex systems – turbulence, weather patterns, fluid flow – as well as those that mathematicians and statisticians have developed for creating new algorithms specifically tuned to the sorts of data we collect is an incredible advantage," says Cohen, the psychology professor, in a release.

Princeton’s institute will focus more on understanding principles of function and interaction that apply across the brain, rather than on individual components. Princeton scientists already have, at their disposal, a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner (the first human brain imaging facility outside of a medical setting) and high-tech facilities for optical laser scanning microscopy that can monitor and control signaling in individual neurons.

Neuroscience is destined to overlap into all kinds of fields, says Cohen. Experts in the fields of ethics and economics are getting involved. "Brain imaging studies have also begun to address questions about the very basis of our ethical principles, for example to what extent these are influenced by emotional responses in addition to rational principles," said Cohen in the university’s press release. "And studies of people making economic decisions have raised similar questions. Traditionally, these questions have been the province of the social sciences and philosophy. Now, however, neuroscience is beginning to provide evidence that is directly relevant."

Landau Joins Spiezle

After 17 years on his own, Michael Landau has vacated his architecture office at 863 State Road and joined the 50-person Spiezle Architectural Group in Trenton, where he is the director of design.

"It looks like a perfect marriage," says Landau. "They are adding talented new people and want to enhance the design profile. Their primary focus was public school work; they are diversifying and I am trying to help that effort." He will continue his focus on religious projects and currently has jobs for synagogues in North Carolina and Washington State.

Spiezle has been in Trenton for more than 50 years, and it was recently awarded the contract to design the Trenton YMCA. It has also done the Rider sports arena and a master plan for Rider’s campus in Lawrence and the Westminster Choir College in Princeton.

The YMCA design, Landau says, will transform an old building and have an impact on the neighborhood. "It is different from what Spiezle has been known for."

Spiezle Architectural Group, 120 Sanhican Drive, Trenton 08618; 609-695-7400. Scott R. Spiezle AIA, president. Www.spiezle.com

New Ad Agency

Jodi Mayo and Joe Giuliano started a full-service advertising agency, Mayo-Giuliano Media LLC, on Orchard Road. Mayo, who had started Mayo Communications in her home about three years ago, was joined by Giuliano after he ran his own firm for four years. Prior to that, he served as creative director for a trade magazine for the building and remodeling industry, Remodeling News.

Giuliano handles everything from website database programming to creative design, and Mayo handles the marketing and writing responsibilities.

While the partners have created a niche in the building material industry, serving clients like window manufacturers, window treatment companies, and industrial tape manufacturers, they have also worked with local schools, and created a website and printed materials for a private lacrosse camp.

Giuliano grew up in Rockland County, New York, and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

Mayo, who graduated with a BA in economics from Penn State University, was raised in Glen Ridge. She worked for eight years at Virgo Communications, a Fairfield advertising agency, and went solo at the request of several clients.

"I had clients at Virgo who had offered me jobs, and a few were very persistent," says Mayo. "But I didn’t want to commit to just one. I was collaborating with Joe for a client and they commented that we would be perfect together, because we complemented each other."

Mayo-Giuliano Media, 172 Orchard Road, Skillman 08558; 908-904-1666; fax, 908-904-9728. Jodi Mayo, president. Www.mgmedia.us

Deaths

Joseph L. Bocchini Sr., 83, on November 21. He had been a turn foreman at U.S. Steel.

Adrian daCunha, 55, on November 24. A chemist, he had worked at BASF-American Cyanamid.

Pharmacopeia

Update

For just over a year, Leslie Browne has been president and CEO of Pharmacopeia, a drug discovery company that had been ripped apart and put back together again. So though Pharmacopeia was founded a dozen years ago, Browne thinks of himself as an entrepreneur. "The company has been in existence since 1993, but we are working in a creative way to move drug candidates at least as quickly if not more quickly than our competitors."

When Browne arrived last year the company had been split into two parts, a San Diego-based software company called Accelrys, and a drug discovery business. Two "pure play" companies, the board decided, could better focus on objectives and pursue acquisitions and investments. Accelrys kept the molecular modeling and simulation software business. The discovery business, now called Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery Inc. (PPD), is on Eastpark Boulevard at Exit 8A.

"The core technology to make compounds, that is all technology that is still here," says Browne. The technology began in the lab of W. Clark Still, 49, a Columbia University chemist who worked on computational methods of building molecules in order to predict reactions that would lead to the design of new drugs.

Still and his colleagues, including Mike Wigler, synthesized chemical compounds on microscopic plastic balls, allowing the firm to create libraries containing millions of compounds. A proprietary tagging system, a sort of barcoding, enabled scientists to easily find compounds with certain properties to fight a particular disease.

Using the term for an official list of drugs as its name, Pharmacopeia was incorporated in 1993. Joseph A. Mollica arrived as chairman and CEO in 1994. (Mollica is now PPD’s board chairman.) Pharmacopeia had more than 200 workers in Princeton in 1998, and that year it bought a San Diego-based molecular modeling and simulation firm. In 2001 it tried to buy a San Francisco-based firm with genome-based tools to validate targets, but the deal did not go through. In 2002 it downsized.

The decision to separate the two parts of the company came when Bristol-Myers Squibb took one of Pharmacopeia’s compounds into clinical development, says Browne. At that point the board realized that, to get the greatest value, the two companies needed to operate separately. The Accelrys part of the business had generated revenue of $95.1 million in 2002. PDD revenue that year was $29.3 million.

Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery has operated as a standalone company since May, 2004. It has 150 workers in two buildings totaling 78,000 square feet at Exit 8A and is paying rent for another year on 81,000 square feet in Monmouth Junction. Last August it landed $7.7 million in private placement funding. The stock has been running parallel to but slightly under the Nasdaq biotechnology market index and the Nasdaq composite index. Its third quarter report reveals that, as of September 30, it had $35 million in cash. It has no long-term debt.

Pharmacopeia still has the largest proprietary compound collection in the world. According to the quarterly report, issued in the same week that the company was honored by the New Jersey Technology Council as "large company of the year," the company met key milestones, with regard to royalties and milestone payments. In clinical trials now are four product candidates for which Pharmacopeia has partnered with large pharmas. It also has early stage product candidates, including some that could eventually be used for psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and transplant rejection.

The new CEO recruited David M. Floyd, a chief scientific officer from Bristol-Myers Squibb, as well as a general counsel (Stephen C. Costalas) and a CFO (Michio Soga). "We have a new management team consistent with our new business and new business strategy," says Browne. "We have established Pharmacopeia as a leading therapeutic product business with a robust partnered product pipeline and a growing wholly-owned portfolio."

No longer focusing on providing compounds for other companies to develop, Pharmacopeia now works for itself to build a product portfolio that it can take into clinical development. Its future revenue is expected to come from its own products. "The big difference is that, before, we were laterally working to help others, but we are now working to develop our own products," says Browne.

Browne grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of an ambulance driver, and was an only child. He says he is imbued with what he calls the "Scottish mentality," to work hard, keep your nose to the grindstone, get the job done, and get a good education.

"Although my parents were not university educated, they always encouraged and pushed me," he says. But when he was 14 years old, his grandfather demanded to know, "When is this boy going to get a job?

Browne majored in chemistry at Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, Scotland, graduating in 1972. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, he was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at Harvard with the Nobel laureate Professor R. B. Woodward. At Ciba-Geigy in Basle, Switzerland, he helped discover Diovan, an early angiotensi II antagonist. He also managed cardiovascular research and discovered Fadrozole, the first marketed non-steroidal aromatase inhibitor for the treatment of estrogen-dependent breast cancer.

At Berlex Biosciences he rebuilt the drug discovery operation and did pharma-biotech deals. As COO at Iconix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a chemogenomics company in Mountain View, California, Browne launched Iconix’s first product, DrugMatrix.

Browne’s wife Marcia, a teacher, founded Friends of Alouette International, a nonprofit organization, and they have three grown sons. Twenty years ago he ran the New York marathon and still maintains a strenuous workout schedule.

Browne had been involved in Pharmacopeia’s business for 10 years. When working for Berlex Bioscience, he helped Pharmacopeia get its second corporate collaboration. So nothing has really surprised him in his first year as CEO. "The most exciting aspect is what the assets are. There is a tremendous amount of value, and it becomes my job to realize the company’s full potential."

Risk-taking is a necessary part of being an entrepreneur, Browne agrees. A CEO must measure risk and accept risk. "I take a disproportionate risk on myself so that others in the organization can do their jobs," he says.

Browne says that another way he supports his staff is by trusting them make decisions without fear of reprisals. "You never have all the information you need to make a decision, but some folks are totally paralyzed by seeking the perfect decision," says Browne. "There are very few wrong decisions. It’s important to be able to make a decision with a shortage of information, take the mistake, and then go back to fix it."

Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery Inc. (PCOP), 3000 Eastpark Boulevard, CN 5350, Princeton 08543-5350; 609-452-3600; fax, 609-452-3672. Leslie Browne, president and CEO. Home page: www.pcop.com

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