A Year of Friends, Hope, and Inspiration

With the end of the year approaching, I think everyone will agree that 2011 is ending on a high note for the New Jersey biotechnology community. There is so much for which we should be thankful and so many people to thank. In this final column for 2011, I would like to highlight:

  • Our great appreciation to Governor Chris Christie, who will serve as our Honored Guest Speaker at our Annual Dinner Meeting, Awards Program, and Network Event on February 2.
  • Our thanks to Paul Thomas, the Founder and CEO of Roka Bioscience, who is responsible for bringing two bioscience companies (one from California and one from Texas) to New Jersey. Paul is the 2012 recipient of the Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership.
  • The remarkable 2011 Annual Meeting Highlights Video created by MD Becker Partners that pictures perfectly the spirit of our meeting.
  • The New Jersey/New York area’s designation as the Number 2 biotech region behind Boston and ahead of the former Number 1 seed Bay Area and Los Angeles in a report issued by Jones Lang LaSalle.
  • Continuing progress in BioNJ’s international initiatives, which was marked this month by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Economic Development Agency of Montpellier (France).
  • Congress reauthorizing the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for a six-year period and adding a provision that allows venture-capital-backed companies to once again participate in the program.

Friends. Hope. Inspiration: At our 2012 Annual Dinner Meeting, Awards Program, and Networking Event, we will continue this theme that so genuinely captures the spirit of this celebration of our thriving biotechnology community. However, this theme is also well suited for a reflection back on this past year. Looking back at 2011, I see a community of friends, an innovative industry that provides hope to patients around the world, and an industry that inspires each of us at BioNJ to continue to strive to provide the kind of programs and services that will best serve the needs of our community.

I thank you for being part of this community and as I look ahead to the New Year, we are so honored to work on your behalf every day as YOUR Association.

2012 Annual Meeting

This year’s meeting will be held on Thursday, February 2, beginning at 5:00 p.m. at the East Brunswick Hilton in East Brunswick, NJ. As we had previously announced, we are honored that Governor Chris Christie will be joining us to share his thoughts on the biotech industry.

I hope that you saw the most recent announcement that identified Paul G. Thomas, Founder and CEO of Roka Bioscience, as our fifth annual Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation, and Leadership.

Prior to founding Roka, Paul was Chairman, CEO, and President of LifeCell Corporation from 1998 until it was acquired by KCI in 2008. During his time with LifeCell, Paul moved the company from Texas to New Jersey, creating more than 500 high-quality jobs for our residents. Since joining Roka in 2009, he moved the company from California to the Garden State and now Roka Bioscience has close to 60 employees, most of whom are located in New Jersey. Paul – a longtime friend of BioNJ – previously served on our Board of Directors, helping to guide our Association with his exceptional insight and expertise as a serial entrepreneur. Congratulations to Paul.

You can read more about Paul and the Dr. Sol J. Barer Award in the BioNJ Headlines section.

I am pleased that another longtime friend of BioNJ will be with us at the Annual Meeting – Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of BIO, will share his thoughts on the 2012 political season and what this means to our industry. There is no one who knows more about what is happening in our industry in Washington than Jim, and we are honored that he will once again be joining us.

And make sure you don’t miss the heartwarming video produced by our returning PR Sponsor, MD Becker Partners, that captures the excitement and camaraderie of last year’s gathering.

Stay tuned for more information on the Annual Meeting over the next few weeks as we share further exciting announcements. I hope you can join us for what has become a signature event for New Jersey’s biotechnology industry.

Please click here to view the video, learn more, and register.

Reflections on 2011

The end of the year is a time to look back and recognize the industry’s many accomplishments, while looking to the challenges that lie ahead. And the year is ending on a high note with a new report that ranked the New Jersey/New York area as the Number 2 biotech region behind Boston and ahead of the former Number 1 seed Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The Jones Lang LaSalle Life Sciences Cluster Report evaluated established and emerging regions based on an array of factors, including employment figures, academic and research facilities, venture capital funding and spending on research and development, among others.

The New Jersey/New York region was ranked second in the United States, after top-ranked Boston. Rounding out the top five were the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and the Washington DC and Maryland Metro Area.

Please click here to read the full Life Sciences Cluster Report.

Even with some challenges, 2011 was a good year for our industry – we had new companies locating here, existing companies expanding and adding new jobs, and new policies were put in place that are designed to foster growth and innovation.

In the spring, we held our second International BioPartnering Conference – adding an expanded international focus to this event. Placing this additional emphasis on the international component to the BioPartnering Conference reflects our continuing efforts to enhance the image of New Jersey as the biotechnology industry hub that it is around the world.

In May, BioNJ Board of Trustees Board Chairman Dr. Sol J. Barer and I traveled to the Knowledge for Growth 2011 Conference in Ghent, Belgium, to tell the story of biotechnology in New Jersey, after which I continued on to the Russian Pharmaceutical Forum in St. Petersburg to repeat that same compelling story.

We also continued to establish significant relationships with international organizations, signing Memorandums of Understanding with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the private company CHA Bio of China, and just this month with the Economic Development Agency of Montpellier (France). Each of these mutually beneficial agreements positions New Jersey as a leader when companies are exploring locations and companies for potential collaborative opportunities.

Debbie Hart and Dr. Gilbert Pastor

Debbie Hart, President of BioNJ, signs an MOU with Dr. Gilbert Pastor, Vice-President in Charge of Economic Development, Montpellier Agglomeration.

Progress at Home

But we also continued to make great strides at home. Most importantly, Governor Christie and the State Legislature came together in the final hours of the 2012 budget process to support provisions that increased the pool for the Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer Program from $30 million allocated in 2011 to its 2010 level of $60 million and increased the Research and Development Tax Credit rate from 50 to 100 percent by January 2012.

BioNJ advocated strongly for these provisions because we believed that reinstating the pool for the Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer Program to $60 million and increasing the Research and Development Tax Credit would benefit companies. It also sends a message during a time of increasing competition among states, regions, and countries for biotechnology companies, stating firmly that New Jersey does not intend to relinquish its position as “The Medicine Chest of the World.”

Just last week in Washington, DC, the House of Representatives and the Senate reached an agreement on a policy change affecting the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) for which we have been advocating for years.

Specifically, the lawmakers reauthorized the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which were set to expire on December 16, for a six-year period as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1540).

Importantly, an amendment to the SBIR/STTR programs allows companies that are majority owned by multiple venture-capital firms to compete for SBIR awards once again.

BIO’s Jim Greenwood said in a statement issued on December 16, “BIO and our members have long advocated for the reauthorization of, and changes to, SBIR/STTR, which are critical sources of funding for emerging biotechnology companies in the early development stages of medical research for serious and life-threatening diseases, including cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s.

“We especially are pleased that this Act will allow majority venture-capital–backed companies to once again compete for SBIR funds, which will help level the playing field for small biotechnology companies so that they can continue to bring innovative medical treatments and cures to market. Allowing companies that are primarily funded through venture capital to compete once again for SBIR grants will increase the number of new medical discoveries and innovations available to patients,” Greenwood said.

The move to amend and reauthorize the SBIR program began earlier this month when the Senate voted in favor of reauthorizing SBIR for a period of eight years as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012. The provision then went to a conference committee, where the agreement was reached because the House did not address SBIR in its passage of the National Defense Act.

New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg voted in favor of the reauthorization in the initial stages of the process, and we thank our Senators for their continued support of biotechnology in New Jersey and the nation.

Click here to read Jim Greenwood’s full statement.

Responding to other trends in the industry, we created a Diagnostics and Personalized Medicine Committee that is focused on the convergence of diagnostics with biotechnology, and we instituted a new Clinical Trial Series, both of which were very successful in their first years.

As I look ahead to 2012, we are already envisioning new programs and services that will continue to enhance your membership experience as part of BioNJ. It is indeed an honor and a privilege to serve this amazing industry here in our great Garden State.

I wish you a Happy Holiday season and look forward to seeing all of our friends at the 2012 Annual Meeting.

Yours in BioNJ,


Debbie Hart