Tag Archives: Princeton chamber

Entertaining Engineer: Prud’homme


Gathered to hear Bob Prud’homme speak at the Princeton Chamber breakfast was a contingent from Princeton United Methodist Church. In this quickie snap, from left: Bruce Henry, Barbara Fox, Prudhomme in back, Jamileh Gerber in front, Dana Dreibelbis in back, Daniel Shungu in front. Also attending from Princeton UMC: Ed Sproles and Doug Fullman.

Scientific “war stories” were on the agenda today, as Bob Prud’homme entertained members of the Princeton Regional Chamber at the Nassau Club. Some of the twists and turns of his 40-year career at Princeton University revealed good news, some not so good.

In the disheartening category was the realization that, since virtually no drugs are manufactured in the United States, the U.S. stands to lose significant intellectual capital re drug development.

Why? A therapy doesn’t leap from lab to assembly line. It undergoes translation from research to retail in a “pilot” manufacturing plant, where veteran managers and supervisors can keep close tabs on quality control. Until recently the major pharmas built those pilot plants in the U.S., supervised by U.S. managers. If all the pilot plants move overseas, technical managers in the other countries will acquire that extremely valuable expertise.

On the heartening side, Prud’homme says he often finds himself working with research scientists in Asia whom he knows – because they were his students and collaborators at Princeton. Surely this answers any chauvinistic assertions that U.S. schools should limit the number of students from abroad.

IMG_4615In the good news category, Prud’homme and his collaborators get money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop drugs for global health. (UFAR founder Daniel Shungu, seen chatting with Prud’homme before the breakfast, is also the recipient of Gates funds.) What can sell in a blister pack at CVS won’t work for a third world country, which needs drugs to be packaged in jars that will last for six months in a hot damp climate. Princeton’s engineering quad leads the industry in meeting the need for these opportunities in drug delivery.

Only inexpensive drugs can be brought to poor countries. In contrast, cancer therapies are so costly that they can’t be used in the Third World. Prud’homme worries that cancer therapies will even be too expensive for OUR country’s insurance capacity, and that our healthcare business plans are in danger. Either our healthcare insurance will topple, or it will be outrageously unequally distributed, or the people will make decisions about what gets covered and who doesn’t.

One fix would be to deny $60,000 immunotherapy if it won’t prolong life by at last a year. Another way is to adopt the single-payer system used in Australia and make the hard decisions. “I worry about the future of our healthcare system,” says Prud’homme, “and that we will have an unjust society. What problems are we willing to live with?”

Prud’homme memorably described the ins and outs of nanotechnology in clear terms. The challenge for using nano in injectable drugs is that the drug might disperse too quickly, before it reaches the target site. The difficulty with using nano molecules in oral therapies is that many molecules are hydrophobic. They do not live comfortably in water.

His lab, successful in conquering both challenges, has been selected as the “academic lab of choice” by the major pharmas. The story behind that reinforces MY conviction that our town is ever so fortunate to have this university and these research labs at our doorstep.

Many complain that because the university has “deep pockets” it should pay more in lieu of taxes. Exactly because Princeton University has those deep pockets, it can afford to offer generous terms to potential partners. Someone asked how scientists can get molecules through the patent process without revealing secrets to competitors. The answer, says Prud’homme, lies in the university’s motto “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.”

Nobody has approved this metaphor, but here’s how I would explain it. You have five pirates at your door for Trick or Treat, almost identically costumed. One has a face mask, Pirate X. When a big pharma (BASF, GSK, Pfizer, Merck – all Princeton collaborators) wants to secretly develop a molecule, Princeton sends all five to the patent office, revealing the identity of four, leaving one unidentified. This gives the big pharma lead time to develop Molecule X. (Somebody please comment if this comparison doesn’t work.)

Princeton University came late to the entrepreneurial market becauase. as Prud’homme acknowledged, research suitable for the commercial market used to be scorned by the academics. Princeton was one of the most hoity-toity of universities in condemning research that results in a salable product.  He credits the philosophy of John Ritter  (in charge of technology licensing) and the success of two researchers – Steve Forrest and Edward C. Taylor – with changing the university’s attitudes about the inviolable sanctity of basic research. Forrest (now at the University of Michigan) channeled his research on organic light -emitting diodes (OLEDs) into a start-up, Universal Display Corporation that leads the market for displays for smart phones and has revenues of more than $300 million. Taylor developed the cancer-fighting drug, Alimta, and the proceeds from that virtually paid for the university’s new chemistry building.

With its generous endowment, the university does not have to nickel-and-dime its collaborators, and its scientists and engineers can be “in the nation’s service.”

Labs inside the Ivory Tower

Robert_Prudhomme-orig-300x300Find out what’s going on at Princeton University’s e-quad. What research projects will spawn the next billion dollar company? What, exactly, can we expect from nano technology? Hear Professor Robert Prud’homme’s entertaining stories on Wednesday, November 14, 8 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Plus, it’s a yummy breakfast! See you there — Click here for details.

Top Two Buttons? Rein and Hilfiger

Rich Rein and Tommy Hilfiger (photo by DiGiovanni Photography)

I have my own story about meeting a celebrity at the Princeton Chamber event at the Hyatt but Rich Rein’s is better.

He interviewed Tommy Hilfiger about his book American Dreamer and muses on that experience in his U.S. 1 Newspaper column last Wednesday.  .

For the occasion, Rein had outfitted himself in a T.H. shirt and tie from Macy’s, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

You’ll have to ask me in person about my own embarrassing story, it’s not something I want in print. But I can heap praise on the spectacularly displayed goodies at the VIP reception

food2031and the enthusiastic crowd of 400 that filled the Hyatt ballroom to capacity. Fashion students from Philadelphia, attending on free tickets but buying Hilfiger’s book, were thrilled to be there, along with many many on the Chamber email list, some U.S. 1 readers, and people who heard about it on the radio (I polled those standing in the booksigning line that curled around the room.)philly-students-imgp2045

To my somewhat surprise, since I am not a fashionista, I liked the book, a tale of derring do. I particularly liked the part where one of his buddies recognized that the river would flood the town of Elmira, so they enlisted everybody — family and fellow high school students — to move inventory from the basement to the top floor. After the flood, the Hilfiger stock was the only dry clothing for sale in submerged Elmira. Everybody — grandparents and teens alike — bought and wore his tie-dyed shirts.

Hilfiger’s is a Horatio Alger story of overcoming — not poverty, but dyslexia. It’s just amazing how talent and focus — and maybe a little luck and grace — can conquer disability.

You’ll have to read Rein on the top two buttons. I can’t tell it as well as he did.


Listen, Then Prescribe.

Barile at hospital

Dr. David Barile’s aim is sky high — to effect a culture change in medical decision making. He speaks on Wednesday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Nassau Club, for the Princeton Regional Chamber. Barile, a foremost expert in palliative care, has a mobile platform, Goals of Care, to help align what patients need with what doctors prescribe. The platform is powered by a Princeton start-up, V  Read about it here. Sign up for the breakfast here — or just come. Networking at 7:30, breakfast at 8.

Breakfast with the real Tony Auth


“I don’t try to be balanced,” says former Inquirer cartoonist Tony Auth. “I try to tell the truth as I see it.” Auth will speak and show his Pulitzer Prize-winning drawings at the Princeton Chamber’s breakfast this Wednesday, November 13 at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Cost: $25 for members.

For an example of his work, here is his cut-to-the-bone Veteran’s Day cartoon. Now Auth is digital artist-in-residence for WHYY’s NewsWorks.org blog, Behind the Lines, where he uses a $5 app on his iPad to pioneer in online cartooning. After appearing on NewsWorks, his cartoons are syndicated across the country.  His topic on Wednesday:  Sacred  Cows Make the Best Hamburger: A political cartoonists observations of  the absurdities and ridiculousness of the past several years.

For more than 40 years Inquirer readers “had breakfast” with his  cartoons. Now we can have breakfast with the real Tony Auth.

One Simple Wish: one dynamic woman


Danielle Gletow is one of the most compelling speakers I have ever heard. Shown above on the left at a WIBA event, she speaks at the Princeton Chambertoday, November 7, at the lunch at the Forrestal Marriott.

Formerly a marketing executive at Rosetta, She has a heartrending story about foster care but is doing an amazing job, through the charity she founded (One Simple Wish) of helping children in foster care. You’ll be glad you heard this CNN Hero, who says “achievement should be measured in love — how much you are willing to give.”

Spin the Wheel — Preserve the Sourlands

Two “do-good” events come up in the next 18 hours. Will you be stopping by the Plaza Palooza this afternoon, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.? I’ll be at the table sponsored by Princeton United Methodist Church and United Front Against Riverblindness. We’ll have a “Help Us Help Others” Wheel — for $1 you get to spin the wheel and either win a prize — or your dollar goes to the charity that the wheel chooses. It’s fun. At the other tables you’ll meet area business folks, get free tastings and lots of giveaways. BAI water will be there, sure to be a hit in the heat! It’s free and a great place to network.

Tomorrow morning, Wednesday, Jennifer Bryson will speak at the Princeton Chamber breakfast on one of her recent exciting endeavors.  For two years she had worked for the Department of Defense at Guantanomo Bay. Now her day job involves partnering with Muslim advocates for religious freedom, but she also campaigns to defend the Sourland Mountains from encroachment. Bryson (Stanford, Yale) is currently teaching at the Army War College.

I’m not always in agreement with preservationists (I’m siding with the Institute of Advanced Study re building on its property). Hear what Bryson has to say and make up your own mind about the 90 square miles of the Sourland Mountains, New Jersey’s “last great wilderness.” Everybody can come to this breakfast for the reduced member price, $25, and it’s great networking.