Active participants in New Jersey’s biotechnology industry welcomed a group of more than 25 PhD and post-doctoral students from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, for a tour and an inside look at daily life at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT), the state’s leading life sciences incubator. The students are part of the Rutgers University Interdisciplinary Jobs for Biomedical Students (iJOBS) Program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expose life science PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to a range of non-academic career options and empower them to pursue their career goals.
The event, which was kicked off with a welcome by Janet Alder, PhD, Assistant Dean for The School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Lenzie Harcum, CCIT Manager, included presentations by representatives of two current CCIT tenant companies, each of whom has completed a PhD in a specific discipline within the realm of biomedicine, and is now involved in the State’s life sciences entrepreneurial ecosystem. Presenting CCIT tenants included:
Jeremy Pronchik, PhD, Scientist, BioAegis Therapeutics – BioAegis is a clinical stage company, developing novel protein replacement therapies targeted at saving lives. BioAegis’ portfolio, which provides an immunotherapeutic approach to fighting pathogens, is based on a protein produced by human tissue, plasma gelsolin. Dr. Pronchik has a PhD in Physical Chemistry from Rutgers University and a B.S. in Chemistry from Bucknell University.
Frank K. Bedu-Addo, PhD, President and CEO, PDS Biotechnology – PDS Biotechnology is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases. Dr. Bedu-Addo was a founding and senior executive at KBI BioPharma, Inc. where he oversaw all business and drug development operations. Before KBI, he successfully started and managed Cardinal Health’s East Coast biotechnology drug development operations, and also worked for Akzo-Nobel, Elan, and Schering-Plough. Dr.Bedu-Addo obtained an M.S. in Chemical Engineering and a PhD in Pharmaceutics from the University of Pittsburgh.
Presentations were followed by a Q&A session and a tour of CCIT, which is considered to be one of the most significant incubation facilities in the nation dedicated to life sciences and biotechnology. CCIT is strategically located in the heart of the State’s research corridor between Rutgers and Princeton universities and offers the most wet labs of any incubator in New Jersey. CCIT tenants have access to affordable “plug and play” ready lab and office space, educational programs, and a wealth of supporting resources. CCIT also offers discounted first-year rent to university spinouts.
“The opportunity to witness some of the pioneering research taking place in the State firsthand was invaluable to the iJOBS trainees that visited CCIT yesterday,” said Alder. “They left the event energized and inspired to explore opportunities to pursue biomedical advances within New Jersey’s dynamic and innovative life sciences community.”
In 2014 Rutgers University became one of only 17 schools in the country to be awarded an NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) grant and iJOBS programming has now expanded to all campuses of Rutgers as well as Princeton and Rowan Universities, NJ Institute of Technology and Stevens Institute of Technology. iJOBS maintains research as its primary trainee focus, while offering programming to broaden trainee’s perspectives, experiences and knowledge to facilitate pursuit of academic and non-academic careers.
“It was an honor to offer these ambitious students and postdoctoral fellows a perspective on meaningful career opportunities that are affecting the global biotechnology industry outside the university environment,” said Harcum. “There is groundbreaking research happening all over the State in both large corporations and startups like those located here at CCIT, and the potential of these talented students to contribute and one day lead those efforts is limitless.”
Harcum manages the EDA’s 46,000-square-foot CCIT, and the 32,000-square-foot Biotechnology Development Center, which offers suites of intermediate lab and office space from 3,400 to 10,000 square feet for emerging life sciences companies including those that have outgrown incubator space and other early stage companies looking to expand.
In addition to being CCIT tenants, both companies that presented have benefited from one or more programs offered by the EDA to support the growth of technology and life sciences companies. These include NJ Founders and Funders, which introduces startup companies to angel and venture investors, and the New Jersey Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer (NOL) Program, which allows eligible technology and life sciences companies to sell unused New Jersey net operating losses and research and development tax credits to unrelated profitable corporations.