Jose Lozano, President and Chief Executive Officer at Choose New Jersey, discusses the latest developments in New Jersey’s life sciences sector, including the innovations emerging from the region’s academic institutions and industry.
Describe the New Jersey life sciences ecosystem? What new discoveries are happening in your State?
New Jersey’s ecosystem is broad, diverse and expansive with nearly 3,300 establishments across the sector, including headquarters or major presence of more than half of the 40 largest biopharma companies. Long known as the “Medicine Chest of the World,” New Jersey has many of the critical pieces needed to compete as a global life sciences ecosystem and is known for numerous areas of strength, including oncology, cell and gene therapy, rare disease, brain health and Alzheimer's.
New Jersey is seeing more spinouts and experiencing increased opportunities for entrepreneurs as a result of the shuffling of big pharma, an increased focus by our academic institutions on commercialisation of research and the opening of new incubators – such as Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs, the HUB (a new innovation and research centre announced recently by Governor Murphy in New Brunswick), Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine at Seton Hall University and Celgene’s biotech incubator.
Ripe with state-of-the-art patient access facilities in the areas of oncology, brain injury, Alzheimer's, paediatrics, neuroscience, cardiac and pulmonary, New Jersey is also the home of major healthcare foundations, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, RWJBarnabas Health, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Henry H. Kessler Foundation and The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
A number of innovative industry leaders have started in New Jersey, such as Celgene (a trailblazer in oncology), Amicus Therapeutics and PTC Therapeutics, NPS Pharma (bought by Shire for $5.2 billion in 2015) and Celator Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Jazz for $1.5 billion in 2016), thereby adding to the rich pool of entrepreneurial talent.
In 2017 alone, companies with a footprint in New Jersey represented nearly 50% of all new FDA drug and therapy approvals, including the first two FDA CAR-T approvals, which represent a new era in cancer treatment, and the first FDA approval of a digital medicine system.
The medical innovation coming from New Jersey is second to none, with companies such as Eisai, Novartis, Eli Lilly, J&J and Allergan leading the way in Alzheimer's disease while Celgene, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Novartis are changing the lives of cancer patients around the world. Today, there more than 1,000 drugs in development in New Jersey.
Can you outline how higher education institutions in New Jersey are working to advance life sciences innovation?
New Jersey is home to elite research universities — including 63 academic institutions turning out 22,000 life sciences graduates each year. Noted for its excellent primary and secondary education, a number of New Jersey-based schools have been recognised for their STEM learning programmes, including the Biotech High School in Monmouth County and Bergen Academies, as well as Students2Science. However, just as important, is what our institutions are doing to transfer technology out of their institutions into the marketplace. For example, two Rutgers’ discoveries recently received FDA approvals. One, an enzyme replacement therapy, a first-ever treatment which is now saving the lives of children suffering from a form of Batten Disease, a rare but fatal childhood illness. The other, a radio-opaque resorbable biopolymer to treat cardiovascular disease, provides an alternative to metal stents and has the potential to help millions.
Meanwhile, Princeton University is making advances in artificial intelligence and has announced the creation of “focused research teams” on precision antibiotics, engineering living organelles, and robotics and cyber-physical systems.
Similarly, the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) is home to five industry-facing “innovationLabs” (iLabs), including the Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center (CGTDC) which combines state-of-the-art technologies, infrastructure, facilities and world-class expertise to support the development and manufacturing of cell therapy products. The Center has become a hub for collaboration with industry, government and regulatory agencies, technology developers and academia in various fields of cell and gene therapy. The FDA is currently considering a new FDA Regulatory Science Center, proposed by NJII in partnership with Rutgers.
Note: Choose New Jersey is partnering with LSX for the 5th annual LSX World Congress, which will take place in London on 5-6 February 2019. The event brings together life sciences investors, pharma, biotech, medtech and healthtech executives, and industry stakeholders for two days of showcases, workshops, conference streams, networking and one-to-one partnering. Choose New Jersey’s Catherine Scangarella and Margie Piliere will be on site to provide more information about the opportunities offered by the region’s life sciences ecosystem.
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