Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the November 6, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
A biotech company founded by venture capitalist Robert
F. Johnston has changed its name from Carta Proteomics to ExSar
This change was instigated by Patrick Griffin, the chief scientific
officer who came on board July 1. This Deer Park Drive-based firm
analyzes and profiles potential drugs using proprietary methods of
mass spectroscopy (U.S. 1, June 26). In particular, its technology
is hydrogen deuterium exchange and structural activity relationships.
Griffin came to ExSar from Merck, where he was instrumental in
leads from the hundreds of possibilities produced by high throughput
screening and combinatorial chemistry. "This is where ExSar can
help," says Johnston, "and with the experience and knowledge
that Pat Griffin has, we are already negotiating some contracts. The
new name is a better description of exactly what we do."
"There wasn’t a scientist on board to set the vision of the
says Griffin, who started at the firm on July 1. "We have put
it on a course that is an area in which our expertise can be utilized
most efficiently and profitably. It is hard to distinguish yourself
as a proteomics company. We believe we have a business plan now that
defines us as a drug discovery company."
The company’s focus was to be a proteomics company and it no longer
focuses on proteomics, says Griffin. "There are several proteomics
companies that can lead to new targets, but the great limiting step
is not finding new targets, it is taking the validated drug targets
and making choices as to which compound to bring forward in the
Meanwhile the company’s first employee has left his post as vice
of operations. "David Houck did a good job at setting up the
part of the operation, but we needed an expert in mass spectroscopy
and how the technology was used in drug development," says
who has his office in a farmhouse on Cherry Hill Road.
Griffin grew up on Long Island, where his father was a aircraft
and his mother a bookkeeper. A graduate of Syracuse University, Class
of 1984, Griffin earned a PhD in chemistry under Donald F. Hunt (an
innovator in protein mass spectrometry) at the University of Virginia,
and did postdoctoral work at California Institute of Technology with
Lee Hood, founder of Amgen and known for deciphering the T-cell loci,
the gene sequence that determines how infection is fought. Griffin
worked at Genentech for a year and was at Merck for 11 years, most
recently as senior director of molecular profiling. He and his wife,
whom he met at Syracuse, live in Scotch Plains, where she works for
Coldwell Banker, and they have two school-aged daughters.
In addition to Johnston’s investment, the company has a few other
private investors plus monies from MBF Capital. It has less than 10
employees, says Griffin.
Griffin had spurned other head hunters’ calls, but the recruiter from
Korn Ferry left a voice mail he couldn’t ignore: "They were
for a CSO to set the vision for emerging drug discovery company that
uses novel technology based on mass spectrometry for looking at small
molecule protein interactions," says Griffin. "When I met
with Bob Johnston, I really enjoyed and liked him, and he has a good
track record at starting up companies. I had had some thoughts of
going off to start a small company, and this definitely lowered the
entry barrier. But it’s not a chip shot. Each person here is wearing
Monmouth Junction 08852. Patrick Griffin, CSO. 732-438-6500; fax,
732-438-1919. Home page: www.exsar.com
The Lenox Drive-based Highlands Insurance Group has filed for Chapter
11 bankruptcy protection, listing $1.64 billion in assets and $1.82
billion in debt. Founded in 1877 as the American Reliance Group Inc.
the company is now part of the conglomerate owned by Halliburton,
the Dallas-based energy and construction services provider formerly
by Vice President Dick Cheney. Halliburton is now under fire for
The company’s troubles began 10 years ago when Hurricane Andrew
southern Florida. American Reliance Group Inc. had more than 28,000
policy holders, small to medium-sized businesses, in Florida, plus
clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Its $100 million in losses left it unable to purchase reinsurance
at favorable rates, and the net loss per share that year was more
The company changed its name to ARI and ceased writing insurance,
and the business and headquarters building was sold to Vik Brothers
International USA Inc. part of a conglomerate, which then sold it
to Highlands in 1996. The company lists 12.9 million shares
outstanding held by 11,074 shareholders, plus 26,431 preferred shares.
New Jersey has worked with the Texas Department of Insurance to make
sure that state policy holders will be protected, according to Stephen
Kibblehouse, CEO of Highlands. But under the terms of the bankruptcy
filing in Delaware, shareholders will get nothing. The company’s
stock, which was trading at about a penny, will be canceled. Highlands
had $496.5 million revenue in fiscal 2001 and a $341.6 million loss.
At one time American Reliance Group had 300 employees on Lenox Drive.
Brandywine Realty Trust bought the 52,000 square-foot building and
its developable acreage for $7,575,000 and will lease it to CUH2A,
which now occupies a Carnegie Center property on Roszel Road. CUH2A
plans to move in November 2003.
Box 6426, Lawrenceville 08648-6426. Stephen Kibblehouse, CEO.
fax, 609-219-1774. Home page: www.highlandsinsurance.com
East Front Street, Trenton 08608-2102. Deborah Osgood, executive
609-396-2595; fax, 609-396-2598. Home page: rbacloan.com
Bayard Street, JFK Square, c/o Office of Economic Development, Box
871, New Brunswick 08903-0871. Carlos Sanchez. 732-745-5836; fax,
732-745-5911. E-mail: email@example.com Home page:
To reflect its new focus Trenton Business Assistance Corporation has
changed its name to Regional Business Assistance Corporation, and
it is providing services in five counties in Central New Jersey. One
of its business development officers, Carlos Sanchez, has opened a
New Brunswick office.
"We are eager to offer our lending and support services to
in Middlesex, particularly in the urban, Latino communities",
said Deborah Osgood, executive director. RBAC has a community
small business loan fund providing financing and technical assistance
to small businesses.
Road, Building 1, Windsor 08520. Mahendra N. Raval PE, principal.
609-443-6400; fax, 609-443-5998.
The consulting structural engineering firm expanded with a move from
Monmouth Street in East Windsor to Princeton Windsor Office Park
this fall. The 30-year-old seven-person firm was founded by Mahendra
M. Raval, who licensed as a Professional Engineer and has a master
of engineering degree from New York University. For such clients as
architects, developers, and contractors, its projects include public
schools, hospitals, factories, warehouses, churches, and offices —
both new and existing buildings.
Suite 103, Princeton 08540. Peter Clark, executive vice president.
609-936-7100; fax, 609-936-8520. Home page:
Drive, basement, Box 997, Pennington 08534. Peter Clark, executive
vice president. 609-274-3535; fax, 609-274-0864. Home page:
The field office for the Merrill Lynch project, which used to have
55 people working out of the construction company’s own building,
has moved into the basement of a Merrill Lynch building, now that
construction is nearly complete. Meanwhile the Central Jersey
of this construction company moved from Branchburg to 214 Carnegie
and has a new phone and fax. Tim Vaughn and Kevin Keller are vice
presidents here. About 17 people work at headquarters and 10 people
on the Merrill Lynch site.
Plaza, Suite 25A, Princeton 08540. John Lacenere, president.
Lance Design Group, a commercial and industrial engineering company,
moved from one suite to another at Jefferson Plaza. Founded in 1989,
the two-person firm focuses on energy management.
08528. Kevin Sweeney. 609-279-1311; fax, 609-279-1387.
The structural engineering firm moved into an office formerly occupied
by a retail store in Kingston. The four-person firm, founded in 1993,
has architects, contractors, and developers as its clients.
Hamilton 08691. Scott Eyester, vice president. 609-890-1430; fax,
609-890-4896. Home page: www.hatzelandbeuhler.com
This electrical contracting company moved its New Jersey branch from
Woodbridge last summer because it focuses on the Central Jersey area.
Among its clients are Barclay White Skanska, Sordoni Skanska, Hunt
Construction Group, and the Henderson Group. Headquartered in
Delaware, it does work for Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Janssen
Pharmaceutical, and Lockheed Martin,
B, Princeton 08540. Robert Medina, president. 609-219-0556; fax,
The engineering firm moved from 3,500 square feet at 15 Princess Road
to Emmons Drive. Headquartered in Hackettstown and founded in 1989
it does environmental permitting and land surveying.
technology security officer, a new post created by Betty Leydon,
vice president for information technology and chief information
as of last year. David Sample has been appointed executive vice
president of worldwide sales and field operations at Princeton Softech
on University Square. He had been CEO at Davox Corporation (now
Software, Inc. and president of ABT Corporation (sold to Niku
Diane Petercsak is vice president of information technology
at Alta Services LLC at Ibis Plaza on Quakerbridge Road. She had been
business systems director, Application Systems Development, at Aetna
planning at Bristol-Myers Squibb and is now director of laboratory
planning at CUH2A, the architectural firm at 211 Carnegie Center.
division at HealthAnswers Inc. on Titus Mill Road in Pennington. She
was most recently vice president at McKesson Corporation. Joseph
M. Palumbo has been made senior medical director, CNS Division,
of PharmaNet at 504 Carnegie Center. He had directed CNS clinical
development at Sanofi-Synethelabo.
an executive with McCaffrey’s Food Markets.
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