The Traditional Approach in Biotechnology – Always Seek Innovation

Sitting down to write this column, I was struck by two somewhat diverse thoughts.

First, I am noticing more and more that the biotechnology industry is beginning to put down some roots and establish meaningful traditions that will serve us well as the industry matures. But that thought is counterbalanced by the faith and knowledge that biotechnology is still very fresh and not only open to new approaches, but also demanding of them – a character trait that is often referred to as innovation.

My landmarks for these observations are Biotech 2011, which next week in Philadelphia enters its second decade with a number of well-established traditions to be sure, but also with some interesting new approaches, and the birth of another amazing startup company in New Jersey, Oncobiologics. Just last week in Cranbury, Oncobiologics celebrated its grand opening, with the Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez on hand to help us celebrate this exciting event (see photo below).

Lauren Rutton Photography

Alfred Titone, District Director of the Small Business Administration; Dr. Pankaj Mohan, Oncobiologics Founder and CEO; Kim Guadagno, New Jersey Lt. Governor; Debbie Hart, BioNJ President; Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator; and Jeremy Caudill, Oncobiologics Vice President of Business Development, cut the ribbon at the grand opening at the company’s Cranbury facility.

Biotech 2011 Marks 11th Meeting

It is hard to believe, but next Monday and Tuesday, October 24 and 25, the leaders of biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic industries in the mid-Atlantic region and beyond will be meeting with their peers in the funding, professional service, government, and academic communities at Biotech 2011, our 11th joint meeting with Pennsylvania Bio.

Entering our second decade but not content to just maintain the status quo, we have worked very hard to combine some of the traditional programs and elements you have come to expect and demand at a Biotech meeting, but we have also worked to make sure the meeting remains as innovative as our industry.

Certainly we are continuing in the tradition of having great speakers, led by our October 24 Luncheon Keynote, Michael Rosenblatt, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Merck & Co., and that evening’s Dinner Keynote, Kevin Buchi, who was just named Corporate Vice President, Global Branded Products, for Teva following Teva’s acquisition of Cephalon, Inc., earlier this month. Most recently, Kevin was Chief Executive Officer of Cephalon. Special guests include the Honorable Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Jeffrey E. Shuren, MD, JD, Director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

And, as in the past, there will be great tracks on Finance and Growth Strategies.

But we’ve also added a new International Track and arranged the Medical Device, Diagnostics and Drug Delivery tracks to include a special presentation by Dr. Shuren.

The innovation slips into another gear on Tuesday, October 25, with a re-envisioned Hot Topics for Scientists track and the debut of the exciting new Innovation Forum.

The Hot Topics for Scientists track has been re-crafted to be a two-part audience-driven session in which the attendees will pose questions on topics to a field of renowned scientists. The questions will include how to get the great science taking place at our universities off the bench and into development and eventual commercialization. The panelists include Kathleen W. Scotto, PhD, Vice President of Research, UMDNJ and Interim Dean, UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr. Robert Spiegel, Chief Medical Officer of PTC Therapeutics.

Taking place in the Grand Ballroom at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Innovation Forum combines the time-tested Innovation Corridor, which highlights research taking place at our universities, with the new Company Showcase and the Funding Roundtable Luncheon.

The Company Showcase will provide emerging companies with the opportunity to highlight their business, technologies, and company strengths before an audience of hundreds of leading industry executives, investors, and venture capitalists.

Knowing what funding organizations are seeking, particularly in the current economy, is never a sure thing, but we have tried to help you find answers to the many questions you ask yourself every day about obtaining funding through the Funding Roundtable Luncheon in which leading funding organizations have agreed to outline what they are looking for when evaluating a company and/or technology.

We are thrilled than more than 40 funders, ranging from Pfizer to the Michael J. Fox Foundation have agreed to offer their expertise for this program. Click here for the latest list, and check back frequently because we continue to add the names of more great organizations.

There is still time to register. I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia.

A New Company Is Born in Cranbury

The continuing vitality of the biotechnology industry in New Jersey was demonstrated once again on October 14. BioNJ was honored to serve as co-host for the grand opening of Oncobiologics in Cranbury before an audience of dignitaries that included New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

Founded by pharmaceutical industry veteran Dr. Pankaj Mohan, Oncobiologics is utilizing a proprietary platform to develop a pipeline of next-generation biotherapeutics focused on clinically validated targets in the therapeutic areas of oncology, immuno-oncology, and immunology.

The company, which is nestled in a business complex along Route 130, already has agreements in place with Fox Chase Cancer Center and others. Oncobiologics currently employs 20 professionals and plans to employ 200 within two years.

In my remarks, I saluted Dr. Mohan and his team for their entrepreneurial spirit and thanked Senator Menendez for championing the Qualifying Therapeutic Project, which provided Oncobiologics some of the resources it needed to get its start through $244,000 in grants. I also recognized Lt. Gov. Guadagno and her boss, Governor Chris Christie, for their work in building a better business environment in New Jersey and helping to restore the Technology Tax Certificate Transfer Program to its previous funding levels after a decrease in the previous budget.

In my remarks, I stated:

“With more than 325 biotech companies operating in New Jersey (and that’s up from 80 in 1998), the biotechnology industry has become increasingly more important to the economic future of our State. And as demonstrated by the opening of Oncobiologics here today, biotech in New Jersey continues to grow despite a tough economy and tough competition from other states and countries.

“We are witnessing today an inspiring example of how a biotechnology company is born in New Jersey. Working from the foundation of an exciting new technology, a group of intrepid entrepreneurs led by Dr. Pankaj Mohan have been able to garner resources from both the public and the private sectors to fashion a company that is exploring new therapies for unmet medical needs in the areas of oncology, immuno-oncology, and immunology, and with that, bringing high-paying jobs to New Jersey. With agreements already announced and more in the works, Oncobiologics is a startup… that has already started.

Click here to read the Onbiologics press release.

Looking at these two landmarks – Biotech 2011 and Oncobiologics – it is very clear to me that our traditions in biotechnology are growing deeper, including our strongest tradition – we are always searching for the next innovation.

Yours in BioNJ,


Debbie Hart