BioNJ hosted its 31st Annual Dinner Meeting and Innovation Celebration last night in East Brunswick, an event that saw its largest turnout ever, with more than 700 people gathered to recognize Garden State innovation and the life sciences.
“In this room, we have the innovators, the visionaries, and the dedicated individuals who contribute each day to making a difference for patients,” said Debbie Hart, president and CEO of BioNJ. “Your presence here is a testament to the collaborative spirit that defines New Jersey’s brilliant life sciences community.”
New Jersey has long been lauded for its robust life sciences ecosystem, proudly boasting that it has more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere else in the world – a fact that remains true to this day.
“Just a few years ago, we took pride in the fact that nearly 1 of 3 novel drug approvals came from research being done in New Jersey,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, who delivered a keynote address to kick off the program. “Last year, New Jersey-associated companies accounted for more than 50% of all novel drug approvals.”
Murphy, who thanked BioNJ and those in attendance for their contributions to the industry, said that the state plans to “continue moving full speed ahead” in contributing to building out an innovation ecosystem, citing initiatives such as the Innovation Evergreen fund, and hubs like SciTech Scity and the Helix in New Brunswick.
“We are rolling out the welcome mat for any entrepreneurs who are eager to revolutionize healthcare,” Murphy said.
Concerning BioNJ itself, the organization announced a milestone appointment, as it named its first female board chair, Emer Leahy, Ph.D., MBA, president & CEO, PsychoGenics, Inc. She will take over the position from Amadou Diarra, Ph.D., senior vice president, Global Policy, Advocacy & Government Affairs, Bristol Myers Squibb.
Leahy, an advocate and champion for mental health, has more than 30 years of experience in drug discovery, clinical development and business development for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including extensive knowledge of technology assessment, licensing, mergers and acquisitions and strategic planning.
Throughout the evening, a number of individual awards were also presented, including the Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership, given to William H. Lewis, J.D., MBA, chair and CEO of Insmed; and the Heart of BioNJ Awards, given to Lisa Salberg, founder & CEO, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association; Amadou Diarra, Ph.D., senior vice president, Global Policy, Advocacy & Government Affairs, Bristol Myers Squibb; and Mark Peters, senior director, Patient Advocacy at Genmab.
Additionally, BioNJ recognized its Innovator Award Honorees, which celebrated the companies that received at least one (and in some cases many more) novel drug approvals from the FDA in 2023. The honorees included:
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