BioNJ’s 23rd Annual BioNJ Annual Gateway Gala, Dinner Meeting & Innovation Celebration recently took place at the Hilton East Brunswick, where approximately 700 biotechnology and pharmaceutical professionals, academic leaders, service providers and government officials – including Congressman Leonard Lance, Senator Bob Gordon and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy – honored 16 Innovator companies with a footprint in New Jersey that were responsible for 27 new drug approvals granted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015.
BioNJ’s CEO and President Debbie Hart, said, “Last year, we reported that 44 percent of all new drugs approvals came from companies in New Jersey. In 2015, that number is even higher. In fact, more than 50 percent of all new drugs approvals from the FDA, came from companies that are located in New Jersey. New Jersey is indeed the drug development capital of the world.”
Hart added, “Our [BioNJ] members are helping patients live longer, better lives while lessening the burden of illness and disease on society. We are pleased to celebrate their important work and dedication in this way.”
Led by Congressman Lance and 7-year-old rare disease patient advocate “Magic” Max Schill, the Innovator Awards ceremony saluted: Allergan, Aprecia, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Eisai, Eli Lilly and Company, Genmab, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Biotech, Merck & Co., Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Sandoz, Novo Nordisk, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Pfizer, Sanofi, Taiho Oncology and The Medicines Company for gaining new FDA drug approvals in 2015.
The evening included the presentation of the ninth annual Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership to Dr. Clive Meanwell, founder and CEO of The Medicines Company by Chairman of the Board, CEO of PTC Therapeutics and 2014 honoree, Dr. Stuart Peltz. The Dr. Sol J. Barer Award was established in 2008 by the BioNJ Board of Trustees to recognize outstanding leaders who have made significant contributions to the life sciences industry in New Jersey and around the world.
Meanwell told the audience, “Because I stand here on behalf of my friends and colleagues at The Medicines Company, it would be first to acknowledge our investigators, partners, regulators – and, of course – the patients themselves who have signed up for clinical trials, in this case, about 35,000. … As a consequence of their work and the patients’ participation, potentially millions of other patients could benefit from these new therapies.”
Since its inception in 1996, Meanwell has guided The Medicines Company to the innovative institution it is today – known for developing products that industry experts have dubbed “game-changers” in treating cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and sedation. In 2015 alone, The Medicines Company had four US approvals and four in the EU.
The evening concluded with a standing ovation for the Honorable Patrick Kennedy, who discussed his personal journey and dedication to ending medical and societal discrimination against mental illness, addiction and other brain diseases. Congressman Kennedy was responsible for the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act when he was in Congress and continues that work today through the Kennedy Forum and One Mind for Research.
Kennedy concluded, “I really want to say that you are helping to put together the kinds of therapies that are going to help save lives. And you should think of yourselves in those ways; not just as astronauts who are making discoveries. Because your work impacts people on a clinical level, and in such a powerful way, you are also the boots on the ground that are kicking down the doors, and saving people from being held hostage to their illnesses. You are bringing life-saving tools.”