Offspring of the DuPont giant

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Elizabeth Browning, of LLuminari, Wilmington, is former head of DuPont Consumer Health. She founded the health- education firm, which produces content for Web sites and e-newsletters, with Nancy Snyderman, of NBC News, and cancer researcher Susan B. Love. DuPont provided intellectual property, such as Web site designs, and some cash.

First of two parts

Over its 205 years, DuPont Co. has manufactured some of America's best-known products - cellophane, nylon and Teflon.

Over its 205 years, DuPont Co. has manufactured some of America's best-known products - cellophane, nylon and Teflon.

The breadth of its technological research, and the scientific talent that flocked to work at DuPont, has spawned more than 30 other firms - and many are in this region.

"It is their variety that has spawned this variety," said Jonathan Russ, professor and historian of American business at the University of Delaware. "There have been firms historically where people have left to do their own projects - IBM, Xerox, Kodak. However, none of those firms generated the sheer variety of spin-offs that DuPont did."

Scientists, researchers, engineers, techies, marketing folks, and consultants of every stripe - some left DuPont because of downsizings and restructurings, some to join businesses that DuPont sold. Others wanted to pursue an idea or follow a dream.

"Because they were on the leading edge of their technology," Russ said of the company, "they had more people spinning off from them."

Why did people and businesses stay? Because of DuPont, which remained locally managed, influential in the state of Delaware, and home still to a large number of du Pont family members, Russ said. "I think that is different from other large companies. That leaves a deeper set of roots than would be common."

Among the best-known former DuPonters in this area are Frank Baldino Jr., a DuPont pharmacologist who founded Cephalon Inc., and Carol A. Ammon, who bought a line of older pain medicines from DuPont Merck and created Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. Wilbert "Bill" Gore was a DuPont scientist in the 1950s with ideas for using Teflon in products. He founded W.L. Gore & Associates, which developed Teflon for such uses as insulated wire and cable and Gore-Tex - a windproof, waterproof fabric laminated with spun Teflon used by sports enthusiasts and consumers the world over.

DuPont evolved from a gunpowder factory in 1802 on the banks of Delaware's Brandywine River into a manufacturer of chemicals, then plastics - inventing nylon, Rayon, Lycra and Teflon. DuPont bought an oil company and, a decade later, started a pharmaceuticals business.

In 1981, after buying Conoco oil, DuPont had 160,000 employees. Today, the $27 billion company employs 60,000.

Although smaller after shedding several large businesses - including medical products, fibers, oil, and pharmaceuticals - the chemical giant remains an ecosystem in this region, spawning new technologies and entrepreneurs.

"They had more ideas than they had money," said J. Michael Bowman, a DuPont executive for 32 years and now chairman and president of Delaware Technology Park, where several of the DuPont-inspired start-ups are located. "They created a lot of great leaders inside DuPont, who decided that, in one way, shape or form, they were going to pursue those ideas, if not in the company, then elsewhere."

Bowman and Bob Dayton, president of the Delaware BioScience Association, a trade group, have tracked more than 30 companies that were spun out of DuPont or started by former employees. Dayton started informally noting firms with DuPont roots when he worked at the Delaware Economic Development Office.

Their list focuses on life sciences and technology companies. It does not include the many engineers and other professionals who departed DuPont and work at various businesses in the area.

Today, a look at information technology, instrument makers, and life-sciences-services firms:

Internet, media, software. Ben du Pont, son of former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. "Pete" du Pont, worked 14 years inside DuPont and left in 1999 to start a dot-com company that is a clearinghouse for new technologies and businesses wanting to commercialize inventions.

Yet2.com Inc. has raised $41 million in venture financing. The company is based in Needham, Mass., although du Pont lives in Delaware. On its Web site, yet2.com lists corporations including DuPont, Boeing Co., 3M Co., Procter & Gamble Co., and Ford Motor Co. that have agreed to provide technologies to be traded on the new Internet site. "We bring buyers and sellers of intellectual property together. We are kind of like an eBay for patents and technologies," du Pont said in an interview from Ireland. "We do about two transactions per month. We've actually spun a fair number of technologies out of DuPont."

 

Elizabeth Browning was head of DuPont Consumer Health in 2000 when she met NBC News chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman and breast cancer researcher Susan B. Love. The three formed a health-education company, LLuminari Inc., geared to women and family health. Based in Wilmington, LLuminari produces content for Web sites and e-newsletters. It generates articles by a network of well-known physicians for media companies and magazines. Their clients include UnitedHealth Group Inc., General Mills Inc., Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline P.L.C.

At the time the company was formed, DuPont provided some intellectual property as well as some cash. "DuPont wanted to exit some businesses, so they put assets in," Browning said. Love also folded her Web site company into LLuminari. DuPont is no longer an investor in the firm.

Exton is home to design-software company Bentley Systems Inc., whose cofounder Keith Bentley in the early 1980s worked at DuPont's Louviers engineering center. Bentley wrote software that allowed DuPont engineers to access low-cost graphics terminals, said his brother Barry, another cofounder.

When Keith Bentley left DuPont in 1983, his brother said, he negotiated with DuPont for rights to sell the software to companies, in addition to DuPont, in exchange for DuPont's continuing to use the software.

"The seed software that got Bentley Systems started was something Keith worked on at DuPont. He negotiated with them to get the intellectual-property rights," Barry Bentley said.

Instrument-makers. DuPont decided in the 1990s to get out of medical products and sold its clinical diagnostics division to Dade International for $522.5 million. In 1997, Dade bought Behring Diagnostics and created Dade Behring Holdings Inc., which still has more than 1,000 employees in Newark, Del.

TA Instruments was once part of DuPont and developed thermal-analysis instrumentation to aid its researchers in the development of polymers. In 1990, DuPont sold the business to a partnership involving former DuPont employees. In 1997, TA in New Castle, Del., was acquired by Waters Corp.

Direct Radiography Corp. is another device company, making filmless digital X-ray technology, spun out by DuPont in the mid-1990s. In 1999, Direct Radiography became a subsidiary of Hologic Inc., in Newark.

Former DuPont scientist Xueying Huang started Sepax Technologies Inc. in 2005 after spending 41/2 years in DuPont's research-and-development center, developing nanomaterials for cosmetics. Sepax makes products to purify and separate pharmaceutical and biological molecules and nanomaterials for customers, including pharmaceutical and biotech companies, universities, and even DuPont. Located in Delaware Technology Park in Newark, Sepax has 15 employees in Delaware and 20 in China.

Agilent Technologies Inc., an electronic test-and-measurement company, was spun out by Hewlett-Packard Co. in 1999. Agilent's gas-chromatography business can be traced to an Avondale, Chester County, firm, F&M Scientific, begun in 1957 by DuPont glassblower Frank Martinez Jr. and two DuPont scientists. Hewlett-Packard bought F&M in 1965. Agilent's gas-chromatography and life-sciences business is still in Wilmington, with 800 employees, and accounts for $1.5 billion of Agilent's $5 billion annual sales.

Sky-Trax Inc., of New Castle, was founded in late 2004 by three former DuPont engineers who developed a system that pinpoints a forklift's location on a warehouse floor. A sensor on top of the forklift beams a signal back to a warehouse manager, who watches on a monitor. The device is aimed at reducing accidents and improving productivity of forklift operations.

Life-sciences services. DuPont's foray into pharmaceuticals spawned many companies.

In 1991, DuPont and Merck & Co. Inc. formed a joint venture, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals. Three years later, Benjamin Chien began work there as a research scientist. He used an analytical tool in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics that he said "revolutionized" the drug-development process. The technology was so promising that Chien left DuPont in 1996 to start Quest Pharmaceutical Services L.L.C.

Quest began with three employees, all from DuPont. Today, the company employs 165 in Newark and 25 in Taiwan. Quest helps major pharmaceutical and biotech companies with clinical trials, from drug discovery through pre-clinical and clinical testing, Chien said.

Julie Eble was a scientist and later manager in the DuPont's crop-protection division. She left in 2001 to found Critical Path Services L.L.C. The North Wilmington contract-research company specializes in pharmaceutical and crop-protection services to life-sciences companies, including chemical analysis and technical writing.

In 2001, DuPont sold its pharmaceuticals business to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. for $7.8 billion. A year-and-a-half later, Bristol-Myers closed the DuPont drug-research labs in Wilmington and Deepwater, N.J., displacing scientists. Hui-Yin Harry Li, who joined DuPont in 1990, wanted to stay in Delaware and decided to start Wilmington PharmaTech Co. L.L.C. The firm, with 15 employees at Delaware Technology Park, provides contract research to drug and biotech companies. The firm has production operations in China.

QS Pharma L.L.C., of Boothwyn, was started by two DuPont scientists, Michael B. Maurin and Madurai G. Ganesan, after the sale of DuPont Pharmaceuticals. The contract-research firm makes pharmaceuticals and drug ingredients under regulated federal manufacturing standards, from screening new chemical entities through manufacturing for clinical trials. QS was acquired in October by Behrman Capital L.P.

Coming tomorrow: A look at the drug-discovery, nanotechnology, chemical-diagnostics and other firms that count DuPont in their corporate DNA.

 


DuPont's Legacy

More than 30 companies have emerged from the 200-year-old chemical giant. Today, a look at information technology, instrument-makers, and life-science-services firms. Coming tomorrow, drug discovery, nanotechnology, chemical diagnostics, and other firms that have DuPont in their corporate DNA.


Contact staff writer Linda Loyd

at 215-854-2831

or lloyd@phillynews.com.