PrimBio. Zeomedix. PuriSpec. Theraceutix. Working away in a nondescript building in Chester County, the owners of these and other companies are creating products that could help millions of people—and make millions of dollars in the process. One, in fact, is about to make its debut on QVC.
Exton’s 25,000-square-foot Innovation Center at Eagleview used to be a Johnson & Johnson research facility. Now, it’s a unique collaboration between the Hankin Group, which owns the property, and Ideas x Innovation Network (i2n). Formed in March 2012, i2n is the result of a merger between Chester and Delaware counties’ Keystone Innovation Zones. “Chester’s zone was company rich and had a lot of resources, while Delaware County’s was educational-institution rich, with universities like Villanova, Cabrini, Eastern and Penn State Brandywine,” says Mary Fuchs, senior consultant at i2n. “Bringing these resources together enables us to help more entrepreneurs in both counties.”
I2n has another hub in Wayne, the 10,000-square-foot Innovation Center at Evolve IP, created in conjunction with GPX Realty Partners. Both facilities are chockablock with start-up businesses. Exton is more about life sciences, while Wayne focuses on technology.
Among the entrepreneurs at Exton is Douglas Pippin, president and CEO of Theraceutix, TransSig and PuriSpec. Pippin’s enthusiastic early participation helped propel the Innovation Center to completion. One of the first to sign a lease, Pippin is a chemist whose career at large pharmaceutical companies included research related to cancer, and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. He parted ways with big pharma to pursue his own products, and he wanted laboratory and office space close to his Chester Springs home.
At the Innovation Center, Pippin gets state-of-the-art lab space (ventilated hoods, chemical storage, chromatographers, robot-powered equipment) at a cost that works with his start-up budget. You will soon see his TCX Skincare Eczema and Dry Skin Relief formula on QVC. All natural and nonsteroidal, the topical treatment is made with oatmeal and a proprietary formulation process Pippin developed at the center. “We use a finely ground oatmeal that’s like powder,” says Pippin. “Inside are natural components that we extract via our Unique Hydromimetics process.”
The nongreasy, non-comedogenic skin protectant is quickly absorbed into the skin of eczema sufferers. Pippin says it’s also effective for treating poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, “because it has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties at work.”
Pippin’s neighbor at the center, John Aybar is developing a healing product of another kind. His Zeomedix company is working on what he calls a cream within a patch used to treat wounds. The patches, which look like tea bags, contain an ointment enriched by microscopic capsules of nitric oxide gas. “It adheres to the skin so that the gas doesn’t escape,” Aybar says. “Then, the gas is released slowly but directly into the wound to kill the bacteria surrounding it.”
At work is a unique molecule created with special technology by a scientific team in Scotland. Its discovery won the Nobel Prize. Now in the development stage, Aybar’s work is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army. The latter is quite interested in Zeomedix’s potential use in combat zones.
Like Pippin, Aybar was drawn to the Innovation Center’s state-of-the-art labs and convenient location. And he cites another benefit: camaraderie. “We’re working toward similar goals with our companies,” he says. “We exchange information and can talk through problems with people, even sharing contacts and collaborating.”
Pippin agrees. “There’s a definite entrepreneurial spirit here,” he says. “People are focused on finding new opportunities to build our businesses, and we build on one another’s success. But it’s not just helping for the sake of helping. It’s because working together benefits all of us. It’s like: Let’s do great science, and let’s do great business.”