Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Figge Fox was prepared for the

April 11, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Transave: Getting Drugs to the Lungs

His first microscope and chemistry set were what Frank

Pilkiewicz remembers as his favorite toys, and he spent his growing-up

years in his mother’s retail business, a flower shop. In the first

half of his career, Pilkiewicz did biotech research, and now he has

moved over to the business side.

"I learned that good science needs good business, both a good

scientific plan and a good business plan," says Pilkiewicz. He

had worked at progressively smaller companies — first with Squibb,

then with Liposome, and then at Oncotherapeutics, later sold to a

Canadian firm, Biomira. Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, he started

yet another company, Transave Inc., to develop new methods of drug

delivery for lung disease.

He opened Transave Inc. in September at Princeton Corporate Plaza

with co-founder Roman Perez Soler, associate director of clinical

oncology at New York University. The first employees were manager

Claire Strupinsky, who has been with him since Liposome days, and

Joel Portnoff, vice president of R&D. The company currently has eight

employees and is growing. It is building a patent portfolio; some

have been filed, some issued, and licenses have been taken on others.

Early venture funding has been from TVM, based in Munich and Boston.

With just a laptop demo, the young company took the best "early

stage company" prize at last month’s New Jersey Technology Council

Venture Fair.

Tuberculosis is still the number one disease around the world, says

Pilkiewicz, and the life span of 85 percent of lung cancer victims

is just two years. In fact, treatments for lung disease —


and cancer plus asthma and cystic fibrosis — were worth $15


last year. At Princeton Corporate Plaza on Deer Park Drive, his


is developing a platform technology, "Sustained release Lipid

Inhalation Targeting" or SLIT, to administer drugs directly to

the lung and keep it there for a longer than usual time period.

"Our technology could give you the ability to administer drugs

locally by inhalation," Pilkiewicz says. "It addresses two

of the main limitations for inhalation. One, that you can’t keep drugs

in the lung. We are working to sustain the release. Two, that you

can’t target the drug to the site of the disease. We’re working to

do that."

Treating something locally can cut down on the amount of the drug

needed. "If you cut your hand it makes more sense to put


on the cut," he says. "You can give a large dose with an


But with inhalation, you are limited by how much you can inhale at

any one time, and what goes in the lung does not stay there. "

Asthma sufferers use inhalation therapy but most other lung diseases

are treated by injection. "Our approach to the lung is unique,

to make delivery systems that can sustain release and target


to treat lung disease. To my knowledge no one has focused specifically

on this area," Pilkiewicz says. "What we are doing is


membrane delivery systems that resemble cells in the lung, vehicles

that work with a stealth effect."

These systems can be used to deliver the latest therapies, such as

those employing genes, proteins, and peptides. It can also deliver

the "classic" pharmaceuticals. With a new delivery method,

the drug inventor can extend its patents. "We take the product

currently given by injection to treat disease far from the injection

site and make it more effective; we localize it and reduce the amount

of drug needed," says Pilkiewicz.

Pilkiewicz has had an abiding interest in health care since he was

a young child. His father, who suffered from rheumatic fever, had

a stroke and lost his speech, and when Pilkiewicz was three years

old, his job was to use his ABC book to help his father relearn the

sounds of the alphabet. His father died the following year. More


his wife’s father — who had survived lung cancer — died of

cancer that spread again to the lung.

Pilkiewicz had two older sisters, and together with his mother, they

ran the family shop. After majoring in chemistry at St. Peter’s


Class of 1968, he did his PhD at Rutgers plus post doctoral work at

Columbia in bioorganic chemistry. He and his wife have mirrored the

family pattern — they have two grown daughters and a five-year-old

son. The older daughter is on the way to being a clinical


and the younger daughter is a premed student at Syracuse.

As a discovery scientist at what was then called the Squibb Institute

for Medical Research on Route 206, Pilkiewicz helped resurrect the

infectious disease unit. Ten years later, in 1987, he joined Liposome.

"I had a natural interest in drug delivery and was working with

a compound, amphotercinB, that was the most potent antifungal


available. I was trying to find something better and couldn’t. I


intrigued with using a new kind of drug delivery to improve that


He turned his amphotercinB compound into Ablecet, the first commercial

product for Liposome.

Still more of a scientist than a business man, his interest turned

to applying drug delivery to immunology and vaccines etc, and he left

Liposome in the early ’90s to be chief scientific officer at


"Liposome was doing very well. The stock was in the teens. I felt

I could leave the Ablecet there to go on to commercialization."

He was intrigued by the idea of starting a virtual company with no

employees. The firm grew from two to 25 or 30 people, housed in new

laboratories designed by Hillier and owned by Eastern Properties at

Exit 8A.

"In a three to four-year span, we went from being a virtual


to having several products and clinical trials," he says.


merged with Biomira instead of braving the IPO market. "The window

to go public was not open, and Biomira was publicly traded. They


a U.S. presence."

"At a smaller company I had more of a hands on role.


afforded me more involvement in the business and the partnering side.

I had never written contracts, looked for partnerships, or gone out

to raise money and the CEO — Gordon Ramseier — gave me the

opportunity to do that. I started to like doing the business side

more than the science side."

"Both Liposome and Biomira are developing products that we


and that is all I can hope for," he says in summary. "You

always feel good when you do something scientifically that can help


"Roman and I had natural interest in treating lung diseases,"

he says. "I am intrigued that nobody really understands what


to things when they go in your lung."

— Barbara Figge Fox

Transave Inc., 7 Deer Park Drive, Monmouth Junction

08852. Claire Strupinsky, manager of corporate administration.


fax, 732-438-9435.

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