SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Startups find a home at Princeton incubator space

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Ethan Novek, the CEO of Innovator Energy, chose Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs as his home base not only for the resources, but also because it’s situated in the Garden State, the home of many of the major chemical and engineering research and development headquarters.

“I’ll order chemicals that are rare to find or equipment that’s specific to a particular measurement and it will show up the next day,” he said.

According to the state’s website, 14 of the world’s 20 biggest pharmaceutical companies are in New Jersey.

“We have collaborations with different established pharmaceutical companies, so New Jersey is just the perfect place to be for that,” Optimeos Life Sciences lead research scientist Robert Pagels said.

There are currently 11 startup companies in the shared space. That was the vision when the incubator opened its doors roughly one year ago.

Novek said he developed a way to separate CO2 and ammonia by using less energy than current technologies.

“Separate that CO2 from what is now dilute unusable emissions and turns it into a really valuable, useful form of CO2 so you can turn it into chemicals, turn it into fuels,” Novek said.

The facility was created in partnership with Princeton University. Pagels said his company came out of a lab at the school.

“You’re probably familiar with insulin,” he said. “A lot of what we’re doing is we’re trying to make these injections either less frequent, so that’s a big focus. Even trying to make oral formulations of these types of drugs that typically can’t be given orally.”

Nishta Rao, the director of Bio Labs, said in the past year they’ve received many applications to rent space here and many qualified companies are in the pipeline.

“We’re really developing the ecosystem here for startups, which was our main goal,” said Rao.

Startups like Liquid Biotech USA.

“Rather than taking an invasive tumor tissue sample to learn more about the cancer, we take a blood sample to characterize the tumor, to learn more about the cancer,” said Jamin Steffen, director of research and development for the company.

Steffen said while the approach has been around for about a decade, it hasn’t stood out as the gold standard but he hopes to help get it there in the next five to 10 years.

“A lot of times patients are so advanced that they’re really not able to give a tissue biopsy, so this really kind of opens the door for more people to be screened, and also more often,” Steffen said.

Companies like these are hard at work creating the future.