Contracts Awarded

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the

December 12, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

reserved.

Life in the Fast Lane

Jay Patel left a secure academic job for a start-up

in the seemingly risky telecommunications industry, an industry where

both young and old companies face an uncertain future. But he sees

leaving academe as the right decision: "Running a business is

more in line with what I like to do."

When he founded Optellios in the fall of 2000, Patel was on the

faculty

at Penn State. Earlier this fall he moved it from State College,

Pennsylvania,

to the Phillips Boulevard space previously occupied by another

fiberoptics

firm, ADC Telecommunications, formerly known as Princeton Optics.

Optellios aims to develop innovative optical components (gain

equalizers

and polarization encoders) for next generation fiber optic

telecommunication

networks. "Since we are small, we are focusing on components,"

says Patel.

Last month he closed on a followup round of venture capital funding

from HIG Capital in Miami and Joel Adams of Adams Capital (a

Philadelphia-based

firm with which Tony Warren, of State Road, is also affiliated). In

addition Patel has a Phase II grant for $750,000 under the Small

Business

Innovation Research program.

He brought six employees with him, and his first new hire was Barry

Zhang, whom he had met when Zhang was still at ADC. Zhang, 36,

received

his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1994 in mechanical and aerospace engineering

and has a master’s degree in physics from Tsinghua University in

Beijing.

"I recognized that this is someone I would love to work with,

a person of quality and integrity," says Patel. "That sat

in the back of my mind. Then when we formed the company I needed

somebody

who can help me build the company and who shares my visions."

When Zhang was hired, he told Patel about ADC’s vacated space.

The company has 15 employees now but has canceled an aggressive hiring

schedule. "We had very big plans until the market fell," Patel

admits. "There is no doubt in my mind that the market will

recover,

but it will be a year before things begin to turn around."

Goal setting is top on his priority list. "What I tell my students

and people who work with me is to remember what your goals are in

life. If you do not know where you are going, when you get there,

you will be lost. You won’t know you have reached your goal."

Patel was born in Nairobi, Kenya, the second oldest of four boys.

His parents had come to Nairobi from the Pujarat section of India

so his father could get a railroad job. His brothers all live on

different

continents now. Patel went to IIT in Bombay (Class of 1974), and he

earned his Ph.D. from New York University at Stony Brook, where he

met his wife, Susan. From 1981 to 1987 he worked on display technology

at Bell Labs. For about seven years after that he worked at Bellcore

on liquid crystal technology. But when research efforts dried up at

Bellcore, he and some of his cohorts began leaving to join

universities.

"After 15 years I knew the value of basic research and knew

management.

I figured that the next stage of my life was to teach people what

I learned," he says. He took a job at Penn State as full professor

of physics and also taught in the electrical engineering and materials

research departments.

"On average, undergraduates are not as motivated as I would like

them to be," says Patel. "People in the old Bell Labs are

incredibly motivated, incredibly bright people, and that is what I

expect."

"Also I realized life in university was at a slower pace than

I was used to. To keep myself more occupied I started a company,

partly

funded by SBIR grants, and sold the technology. I knew that

commercializing

the technology would be very difficult because we didn’t have

capital."

Then he helped raise $8.5 million for another technology company,

with which he is no longer associated.

At age 50 he is going in a completely new direction.

"We don’t talk too much about what we are doing for competitive

reasons, but one of our main components is fiber optic wave length

management." Different colored lights go through the same fiber

on a fiber optic network, he explains, and if one of the signals is

too strong it may overwhelm the other signals. Optellios’ components

try to manage the power in the fiber on a wavelength by wavelength

basis.

At the source, when the light is injected into the fibers, all the

signals have the same power, but different wavelengths lose intensity

at different rates. Periodically the energy has to be boosted with

an amplifier. Patel compares this boost with fructose handed out to

a marathon runner. "The strongest runner may get the biggest

boost,

but the weakest person may never make it to the fructose source. You

need a way to equalize the power before giving the boost, so everyone

has a fair chance."

His device, a Gain Equalizer, manages the power. It costs thousands

of dollars and will be bought by the thousands. Competitors planning

to make similar products include Chorum Technologies in Texas and

Novera Optics on the west coast, as well as Corning and JDS Uniphase.

"The current way to do this is to separate out the runners,

measure

the energy, and boost each one appropriately. For ours, you zap the

whole group and equalize the power, saving money, management, and

cost." Patents are pending, says Patel.

His goals are to return value to the investors, either through an

IPO or getting bought out. Yet he points out that in addition to

capital

investments there are emotional investments that employees make.

"These

are hardworking people, and our goal is to make this company an

incredible

success. Our goal is to have a big building and to become a big, very

successful company, where people have pride in what they created."

"I am having a very good time," says Patel. "The best

part: motivating, encouraging people to do the best possible job that

they possibly can, encouraging them so they learn from their mistakes,

and move forward. In a way, it is like what I did at Bell Labs,

interacting

and sharing ideas with people. I am trying very hard to create that

environment."

"When I first joined Bell Labs in 1981 they had a slogan `People

are our strength,’" says Patel. "If they don’t have a sense

of pride, are not being challenged, I don’t think you can expect much

out of them. `The day you feel you don’t want to come to work, come

talk to me,’ I tell them. Respect is what makes cohesion. We all have

our squabbles but at the end of the day we have respect for each

other."

— Barbara Fox

Optellios, 250 Phillips Boulevard, Suite 255, Ewing

08628. Jay Patel, founder. 609-671-9800; fax, 609-671-9801.

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Contracts Awarded

Universal Display Corporation (PANL), 375 Phillips

Boulevard, Ewing 08618. Steven Abramson, president.

609-671-0980;

fax, 609-671-0995. Www.universaldisplay.com

A public company on Phillips Boulevard has signed joint

venture agreements with Sanyo and Kodak. These firms join Sony

Corporation

and Samsung SDI in asking Universal Display Corporation to develop

next generation display technologies.

"This bodes well for an emerging industry which promises to

revolutionize

computing and communications over the next decade," says Sid

Rosenblatt,

CFO of Universal Display Corporation (UDC). "The alliance

illustrates

the rapid development of organic light emitting devices (OLEDs) and

underscores the need of OLED research firms to work closely with

manufacturers

to compress the time to market for these quickly developing

technologies."

With its portfolio of more than 400 patents, UDC uses

electrophosphorescent

materials that are up to four times more power efficient than

conventional

fluorescent small molecule technology. UDC also says it has a

strategic

relationship with Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries to commercialize

and produce its proprietary materials.

Lavipharm Laboratories Inc., 69

Princeton-Hightstown

Road, East Windsor 08520. Zsolt E. Lavotha, president and CEO.

609-448-3001;

fax, 609-371-9174. Home page: www.lavipharm.com

Lavipharm Laboratories Inc. has agreed to act as a big

Japanese firm’s entry point into the United States drug delivery

market.

Kobe Steel Ltc. will provide new business development support and

pharmaceutical industry partnering opportunities for Lavipharm’s

Supercritical

Fluid (SCF) technology portfolio in return for Lavipharm’s doing

feasibility

and clinical studies in the United States. Lavipharm will also take

the lead in making deals.

Lavipharm Laboratories Inc. has 60 employees in 50,000 square feet

on Princeton Hightstown Road. It is the research and development

engine

of the parent company, based in Greece.

Its SCF technology helps solve problems with drugs that do not

dissolve

easily. It can also form molecules and help make the drug better and

safer for patients. "Further, it can allow our partners the

opportunity

to bring drugs to market that would otherwise not have launched or

met their full potential — or it can increase the effective life

of a current drug through improvements to the drug’s

characteristics,"

says Zsolt Lavotha, Lavipharm’s president and CEO.

Kobe Steel already uses SCF technology for industrial purposes, and

it can introduce Lavipharm’s expertise to its own customers as well

as the Japanese pharmaceutical and biotech industries.


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