Everybody agrees that nanotechnology is the wave of the future, and that New Jersey’s future may depend on investment in it.
Earlier this month the NJCST gave $500,000 for NJ NANO @ RU, a nanotechnology facility at the Institute for Advanced Materials and Devices located at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Rutgers already has more than $5 million in equipment, and it will buy new equipment, including the most powerful microscope in New Jersey.
“New Jersey has always been on the forefront of scientific advancement, and this investment will help expand the state’s current leadership position to include the promising field of nanotechnology,” said Donald L. Drakeman, commission chairman and CEO of Medarex, in a press release issued after NJCST’s May 19 meeting.
“Nanotechnology is not an industry, it is a tool, like accounting,” says Michele Bitritto, formerly business director at New Jersey Commission on Science on Technology and now on the leadership team for New Jersey Institute of Technology’s High Tech Incubator.
“The short-term, profitable applications of nano are in everyday industries such as cosmetic sunscreens,” says Bitritto, who just released an incisive, detailed, and somewhat alarming report for NJCST about New Jersey’s current and future prospects for nanotechnology jobs.
The nanotech facility at Rutgers will be used by various industries including petrochemical companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology sector, the microelectronic industry and energy enterprises. “Small business, corporations, and other universities will be able to use the equipment, but its focus is for research, not for making devices,” says Bitritto.
With Lucent being sold to Alcatel, another state investment in nanotechnology could be in jeopardy. Four years ago the state invested a significant amount in a deal with Lucent so that university researchers might be able to use the fabled Bell Labs laboratories. But now no one can predict whether that access will be available, says Bitritto. She hopes that the resources remain available under Alcatel ownership, and that they will extend to small businesses.
‘The original state investment in Lucent was only for universities,” says Bitritto. “But access to the Lucent laboratories probably has more value to small businesses that need a place to make their prototype devices.”
At the same meeting NJCST awarded just over $1.3 million to four New Jersey companies that are partnering with research universities; both the companies and the universities must provide matching funds and, if the technology goes to market, they must pay one percent royalty to the state. Of the 29 proposals for the Entrepreneurial Partnering Fund, four were selected, and three are from the Princeton area.
Princeton University is partnering with Signum Biosciences of Deer Park Drive for a $500,000 grant, trying to solve the problem of Alzheimer’s disease by using agents from natural products (U.S. 1, August 25, 2004). Princeton University is also working with Princeton Power Systems, at the Forrestal Campus, on a $330,958 grant for a grid-tied inverter used in solar power (U.S. 1, November 28, 2001).
ProFACT Proteomics (at the Technology Center of New Jersey on Route 1 South in North Brunswick) will get $182,000 to work with UMDNJ-RWJMS to build an infrastructure focused on cancer drugs and diagnostics (www.profactproteomics.com).
Both Signum and ProFACT Proteomics also successfully applied for postdoctoral graduates under an NSCST program that totals $695,000 this year. For Signum Biosciences, the state will pay $75,000 for a first-year post-doc fellowship and $85,000 for a second year fellowship. ProFACT Proteomics gets a first year fellow.
Two other companies at the Technology Center of New Jersey received first year fellowships: Chromocell Corporation and Orthocon Inc. (U.S. 1, October 26, 2005). The first year fellowship recipients include Pradeep Bhatta, just graduated with a PhD from Princeton University, who will help Princeton Satellite Systems, based on Witherspoon Street, to expand its line of aircraft design software tools to include underwater vehicles (www.psatellite.com, U.S. 1, November 28, 2001). Anamika Patel will have a second year at Energy Photovoltaics on Bakers Basin Road, helping to develop thin film modules to make solar energy more economical (www.epv.net).
While Rutgers landed the $500,000 nano center, Princeton University will get a similar sum from its participation in a multimillion-dollar engineering research center, funded by the National Science Foundation, called MIRTHE (Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment). “It is expected to revolutionize sensor technology, yielding devices that have a unique ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the atmosphere, emitted from factories or exhaled in human breath,” according to a press release. Princeton joins five other universities who will share nearly $3 million this year, and the funding could top $40 million over the next 10 years.
Celator Pharmaceuticals, 303 B College Road East, Princeton 08540; 609-243-0123; fax, 609-243-0202. Andrew Janoff PhD, CEO and chairman. Home page: www.celatorpharma.com
The headquarters of Celator Pharmaceuticals, a privately held biopharmaceutical company focusing on cancer therapies, moved from 1,800 square feet at 1 Airport Place to 13,000 square feet at College Road East; at the same time, the company’s research facility in Vancouver moved from 5,000 to 14,000 square feet. According to CEO Andrew Janoff, growth in several key areas was fueled by the $40 million round of financing completed last year.
Janoff reports significant progress “on all fronts.” Celator has completed a Phase 1 study for its lead product, CPX-1, which will be developed for colorectal cancer, and Celator will be announcing results in June. Phase 2 studies are expected to open later this year.
The center of Celator’s strategy is its CombiPlex technology platform, for which a patent application is currently pending in the United States and Europe. The technology represents a new direction in developing drug cocktails to fight different cancers. Up until now, the standard for cocktails has been to include each component at its maximum tolerated dose.
Celator holds, however, that chemotherapeutic agents can act synergistically at certain ideal ratios among the component drugs, and its technology has shown significant success in identifying the optimal drug ratios and then locking them in drug carriers so that the ratios can be maintained in patients.
Confident that this approach could represent a significant advance in patient care for many forms of cancer, Janoff expects Celator’s staff in Princeton to grow this year from 17 to 22. The company has an additional 29 people in Vancouver.
“The funding represented conclusions by investors that we have a technology that is likely to change the standard of care in treating cancer,” says Janoff, adding that early stage trials are showing some promise for this ratiometric approach. “If we’re right,” he continues, “we have an unlimited pipeline.” Initially, the company is targeting new combination therapies involving chemotherapy agents already approved and widely used to treat cancer. This approach positions Celator to pursue promising product opportunities with reduced clinical risk.
Among the investors in the $40,000 funding round 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 was touted as one of the largest venture capital investments in biotechnology in the North America for the year (U.S. 1, May 18, 2005).
Celator began in 2000 as a spinoff of the British Columbia Cancer Agency with a laboratory in Vancouver and moved to Princeton in 2003. Janoff has been CEO since 2002.
Janoff had been vice president of research and development at Elan Corporation and, prior to that, vice president and a scientific founder of the Liposome Company. He majored in biology at American University, Class of 1971, and has an M.S. and Ph.D. in biophysics from Michigan State University.
Out of Business
Bylin-Babick Associates LLC, 133 Franklin Corner Road, Lawrenceville.
Bylin-Babick Associates has closed, according to information sent by the company. It did consulting for the gift industries.
Ellentuck & Springer. James R. Springer, president. www.DRTV.com
After 30 years in business, Ellentuck & Springer has closed, according to James R. Springer, who sold the company to EMS Direct in Houston, Texas. The company had eight employees in the 1990s and did direct response advertising.