That unusual structure on Princeton-Hightstown Road – the one that looks like the orange skeleton of a giant crustacean – has found a biotech tenant with a technology that promises to be as innovative as the building itself. Phyton Biotech plans to move its 40-person R&D laboratory from Ithaca, New York, to just over 20,000 square feet at 279 Princeton-Hightstown Road in October.

Phyton has plant cell fermentation technology for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. It was founded by graduate students at Cornell in 1991, and in 1993 it bought what is now billed as "the world’s largest plant cell manufacturing facility" in Ahrensburg, Germany. It was acquired in 2003 by Texas-based DFB Pharmaceuticals Inc., also a private firm.

"What makes Phyton unique is that we are taking a science that has been well known for decades and converting that to a commercial manufacturing technology," says Venkatesh Srinivasan, vice president for business development. The firm produces commercial quantities of the active ingredient (paclitaxel) used in a leading drug for ovarian and breast cancer that was first developed and marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The company website reveals that it is hiring two dozen positions, ranging from accounting manager to director of cell culture research to analytical chemistry technician.

The building was designed by Richard Rodgers, known for the Pompidou Center in Paris, and it was commissioned by a British firm, PA Consulting Group, which now has 40 employees at 600 College Road. Phyton is leasing about half the space available in the 43,000-foot building.

"We will have a variety of different lab spaces," says Srinivasan, enumerating areas for soil culture, chemistry, molecular biology, a clean room for a robotic station, and a development pilot plant with bioreactors. "In the next couple of years we might need to expand."

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority voted to provide Business Employment Incentive Program funding in February. If Phyton Biotech succeeds in creating 118 new jobs, the company could get as much as $1.2 million in funds from the BEIP program, says the NJEDA’s Glenn Phillips.

After the buyout the founding scientists left and Magnus Precht became president. Last year Charles Swindell was named vice president of R&D. Swindell, formerly on the Bryn Mawr College faculty, had invented and licensed a paclitaxel manufacturing process. Srinivasan, who has been with Phyton since its inception, is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (Class of 1985) and State University of New York at Buffalo. Ernie Serrato is in charge of human resources. Srinivasan says Phyton does not seek venture capital investment; its revenue will be based on collaborations and acquisitions and sales from manufactured products approved by the FDA.

"Right now we use our technology to produce small molecule drugs, but we hope to make a significant investment in producing human therapeutic proteins, and we expect that will be a significant business in the years to come," he says.

The 14-year-old firm has achieved significant milestones, he says. "The plant in nature produces very small quantities of the material that produced paclitaxel. First we had to grow it successfully and to produce it in commercial quantities, then we had to figure out how to enable this level of productivity to occur."

"The supplier for Bristol-Myers Squibb was sourcing the compound through a semi-synthetic process – harvesting plant material and extracting a natural precursor of paclitaxel. B-MS converted that precursor of paclitaxel through chemical reactions," says Srinivasan. "We produce it directly using the native biosynthetic processes present in the cells themselves. Through a deep understanding of the physiological cues the cells need in order to be productive – and of course a good bit of good luck – our technology encourages the cells to do it more efficiently than they do it in nature."

In June the company broadcast its move at a national meeting, says Debbie Hart, executive director of the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey. "Their company brochure was like an advertisement for New Jersey," she says. In a clever Q&A format the brochure explained key points about the company, ending with "Why are we moving our headquarters to Princeton, New Jersey?"

The question was answered to Hart’s great satisfaction: Better access to qualified personnel and proximity to customers. The brochure continued: "Sixty-two thousand people work in New Jersey’s pharmaceutical and medical operations, New Jersey has more scientists per capita than any other state, nearly half of the nation’s R&D for drugs in conducted in New Jersey facilities, where 75 percent of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are located." That’s straight from Hart’s BCNJ web page.

Phyton Biotech Inc., 279 Princeton-Hightstown Road, East Windsor 08520. Charles Swindell, vice president R&D. 817-900-4041. www.phytonbiotech.com

New in Town: Coaster

Coaster Company of America, 45 Stults Road, South Brunswick 08852. 732-562-0119; fax, 562-903-0839. Home page: www.coastercompany.com

Coaster Company of America, a California-based furniture company, plans to expand to a distribution facility owned by Matrix Development Group at 45 Stults Road. According to Matrix COO Alec Taylor, the firm currently has about 180,000 square feet in Piscataway and will move to the 300,000 square-foot warehouse by the end of the year.

Coaster Company of America began operations in 1979 as a premier importer and distributor of "ready to assemble" furniture and accessories in the U.S. and Mexico. With annual sales in the $125 million range, it has branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida, and Texas. Among its products are dining and bedroom sets, metal dining furniture, bunk beds, daybeds, futons, wall decor, occasional tables, and table and floor lamps.

According to Coaster’s website, it is currently hiring customer service and warehouse employees. The company did not return several calls.

Less than two years ago Matrix had bought the 29-acre site complete with an obsolete, unoccupied warehouse, and – without a signed tenant – built a brand-new 439,000-foot facility. The features include 36-foot minimum clear height, 77 dock door positions, all-new infrastructure, rail access and 66 trailer storage spaces. Just under 140,000 square feet remain to be leased.

"The demand for this facility, with its extraordinary location and state-of-the-art design, has been extremely strong," says Taylor.

ComData Consulting Inc., 3490 Route 1 North, Princeton 08540. Mohan Cherukuri, director. 609-897-1314; fax, 609-897-1336. Home page: www.comdataus.com

ComData Consulting, a Chicago-based software consulting company, has opened an office at 3490 Route 1 North. The office, which employs approximately 30 SAP and Java software consultants to work onsite at customer locations in the pharmaceutical and other industries, is seeking additional qualified employees.

Computer Renaissance, 2235 Route 1 South, Commerce Center, North Brunswick 08902. Len Fullwood, owner. 732-821-5800. www.crnorthbrunswick.com

Computer Renaissance, a computer reseller and service provider, has opened a new location to sell new, used, and customer-built computers, and provide both in-home and business networking services.

Foundation Title LLC – Mercerville, 3673 Quakerbridge Road, Mercerville 08096. Edward Rickenbach, owner. 609-586-7077; fax, 609-586-7020. Home page: www.ftnj.com.

Edward Rickenbach has opened a 15-person title search office on Quakerbridge Road. He also has offices in Metuchen, Woodbury, and Ocean townships and a total of 40 employees. A graduate of Rutgers/Camden, he has 20 years experience in the business and plans to open a fifth office in Moorestown next year. Also in this office is Denis Miller, an attorney with 30 years experience.

VC Spin-Out

Care Capital LLC, a life sciences investment fund, has spun out Clinical Development Capital, headed by Pat Nasshorn. In July the new firm moved out of the offices of Care Capital to Suite 500 in the same Hulfish Street building. The six-person firm does clinical development collaboration on phase III and IV pharmaceuticals; it also participates in commercialization expenses for product launches and acquires of royalty rights.

Care Capital had also incubated Vanda Pharmaceuticals (U.S. 1, September 10, 2003), where Nasshorn was vice president for business development. Vanda aims to use genomic profiling to reposition drugs that have run into trouble in late stage development. The headquarters has moved to Vanda’s Rockville, Maryland, laboratory.

Nasshorn previously worked in the same Hulfish Street building for Unipath marketing, an innovative woman’s pregnancy testing firm that was sold and moved to Massachusetts.

She grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, the second daughter of three of an entrepreneur. A Temple alumna, Class of 1976, she has a marketing and finance MBA at Temple. She had worked with two of Care Capital’s principals, Jan Leschly and Jerry Karabelas, at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck, respectively, and she also did stints at Johnson & Johnson.

The new company’s current space is a sublet but it expects to move to its own space, in the same building, next year.

Clinical Development Capital, 47 Hulfish Street, Suite 310, Princeton 08542. Pat Nasshorn, senior vice president, business development. 609-683-3678; fax, 609-683-3671.

Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc., 9620 Medical Center Drive, Suite 201, Rockville 20850. 301-294-9300; fax, 301-294-1900. www.vandapharmaceuticals.com

Olsen Space-Bound

In July Gregory Olsen was confirmed as a member of the Soyuz TMA-7 crew due to launch on October 1 from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. Also on this crew will be NASA astronaut William McArthur and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev. Olsen’s voyage has been arranged by Space Adventures Ltd., a space experiences firm.

In 2004, during a routine medical evaluation, doctors found a health condition that could prohibit Olsen from continuing his training, but this has been remedied. "I have completed over 500 hours of cosmonaut training and am excited to finish my preparations," says Olsen. "I also look forward to finalizing the components of my remote sensing and astronomy research projects that I plan to conduct while aboard the space station."

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics from Fairleigh Dickinson and a Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Virginia, Olsen holds 10 U.S. patents and has co-authored several books. In 1991 Olsen founded Sensors Unlimited, which develops and manufactures optoelectronic devices for fiber optic communications systems, photonic, and near infrared imaging devices. Olsen serves on advisory committees to the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, Princeton University, and University of Virginia, and is on the board of trustees at Fairleigh Dickinson.

"Dr. Olsen’s determination and dedication to this mission should be seen as highly commendable and respected by the entire space community," said Anatoly Perminov, chief of the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation, in a prepared statement. "Dr. Olsen will be the first space tourist launched since the Columbia tragedy; we look forward to many future private missions."

Kids + Computers

For the 2005 summer session Eva Kaplan moved her school and camp from the Straube Center in Pennington to the shared office space at HQ at Princeton Forrestal Village. The Computers+Kids camp, now in its 23rd year and one of the oldest computer camps in the country, serves children from 7 to 15 years of age, with a limit of 12 per class, for half-day or full day sessions.

Kaplan says she started in computers back in 1976 when they didn’t have anything like a hard drive. Now, not only does Kaplan have former students teaching with her, but her former students have children who attend the camp. "They learn about hardware and software. They even write their own games," says Kaplan. "Parents feel that since their child spends all day playing games on the computer anyway, they might as well learn how to develop them."

Kaplan says that each child receives individual attention based on their areas of interest, in addition to workshops with visiting specialists. Visitors have included Joseph Sinninger, co-author of one of the first computer word-processing programs; Joseph Massei, a professor of astronomy at Princeton (also of Dr. Doz Band fame), who taught campers how to dismantle a synthesizer and compose music; and Grammy nominee Beth Ertz, who has written music for movies and television. (Her hands appear playing the piano in the movie "I Am Sam.") Henry Horn, a Princeton University botany professor, has brought in sculptures created from obsolete vacuum tubes and transistors.

"They choose what they want to learn, and because they choose, it’s stimulating and challenging," says Kaplan. "This camp combines verbal, visual, and problem-solving experiences. It helps develop prediction skills. Every week, campers get to take home their projects on a CD, whether it’s a game they wrote, or a robot that they built and programmed."

"We teach children to use business applications in creative ways. For instance, we’ve used the PowerPoint program to make actual animations, not animated texts. We used it to create an interactive adventure game," says Kaplan. "Right now, we’re teaching them how to use a word processing program to create comic strips."

Kaplan, a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, went to Hunter College (Class of 1959) and earned a master’s degree in interrelated arts from New York University.

Having taught computers at St. Raphael School in Hamilton Township for 21 years, she now serves as an adjunct professor at Mercer County Community College, where she started the college’s initial computer classes for children and seniors. When not teaching, Kaplan displays her art, mostly collages and pen and ink drawings, which have appeared in calendars and books.

Kaplan’s son, Ari, is the international president of the Oracle database user group and developed a statistic-tracking baseball computer program. For that, he was selected by Caltech as one of two alumni of the decade, an honor that has gone in previous years to the likes of Linus Pauling and Frank Capra. Her son Todd is a professor of economics at Exeter University in England, and daughter Jodi is a former dancer and filmmaker who is now the booking agent for American Repertory Ballet.

The capabilities of the children who attend computer camp range from beginners to advanced. "One of the courses teaches kids how to take a computer totally apart. After they completely dismantle it, they have to rebuild it and make it work again," says Kaplan. "These children then know how to upgrade RAM on their parent’s computers at home – but their parents don’t."

Computers+Kids, 116 Village Boulevard, Princeton Forrestal Village, Suite 200, Princeton 08540. Eva Kaplan, founder. 609-730-0746; fax, 609-520-1702. Home page: www.computersandkids.com

Expansions

Herrick, Feinstein LLP, 210 Carnegie Center, Suite 102, Princeton 08540-6232. Colleen Trout, branch office manager. 609-452-3800; fax, 609-520-9095. Home page: www.herrick.com

The law firm of Herrick, Feinstein LLP has moved from 6,000 square feet at 104 Carnegie Center into 10,000 square feet at 210 Carnegie Center, Suite 102. The firm employs nine attorneys and seven support staff, and it has offices in New York City, Newark, and Albany. Phone and fax stay the same.

It focuses on corporate law, workout and bankruptcy, litigation, real estate, sports and entertainment, intellectual property and patents, tax, trusts and estates, and publishing.

Frascella, Salak & Pisauro, 100 Canal Pointe Boulevard, Suite B-1, Princeton 08540. Alex Salak, partner. 609-737-7374; fax, 609-737-7379. Home page: www.fsplaw.com

The law firm of Frascella, Salak, and Pisauro moved in July from shared office space at Carnegie Executive Center into larger space at 100 Canal Point Boulevard, Suite B-1. Phone and fax have changed.

The two-attorney practice focuses on civil litigation, business law, contracts, real estate, employment, environmental, intellectual property, family law, and wills and estates.

Trade Management Services Inc., 196 Princeton-Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction 08550. Steve Hagen, vice president. 609-750-9881; fax, 609-750-0374. Www.credit-link.net

Credit Link, also known as Trade Management Services, has moved from 55 to 196 Princeton-Hightstown Road. The company provides credit reporting information to the interior decorating industry.

Deaths

Lucrecia Morales, 59, on July 6. She taught at Princeton Nursery School on Leigh Avenue in Princeton.

Firoozeh Khazrai, 46, on July 21. She was a lecturer at Princeton University in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. A memorial service will be Saturday, September 10, at 4 p.m., at the Unitarian Congregation of Princeton.

Leslie C. McAneny, 68, on July 26. She retired after 21 years with the Gallup Organization.

Donald J. Henry Sr., 78, on July 27. He had been an investigator for the State of New Jersey and an investigator and agent for Nationwide Insurance Company.

Robert W. McBrier, 60, on July 28. He had been vice president of field operations for Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging.

Carl W. Schafer, 69, on July 30. He was president of the Atlantic Foundation and had been the financial vice president and treasurer of Princeton University.

Gary E. Kater, 59, on August 1. He was manager of compensation benefits at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Kevin B. McRae, 33, on August 1. He was a parts specialist at Haldeman Ford.

Steven Leigh Bell 59, on August 2. He had been a special criminal investigator with the IRS and the deputy director of homeland security at the state department of military and a veterans affairs.

Rocky "Louis" Vendetti, 71, on August 4. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service in Princeton.

Carol L. Young Schwartz, 55, on August 5. She worked at Clarke Caton Hintz Architects and Planners in West Trenton.

Sanford Roeser, 73, on August 5. He founded American Boarding School Placement and worked for Educational Testing Service.

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