Science & Technology

Cutting-Edge Cell & Gene Therapy Manufacturing Center Opens in Newark

A virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony was held yesterday for BioCentriq, a multi-million-dollar, 4,000-square-foot cell and gene therapy development and clinical manufacturing center located on the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) campus in Newark.

The newest venture at NJIT’s New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), the objective of BioCentriq is “to bring industry, technology developers, regulatory agencies, and academia together to address manufacturing challenges in cell and gene therapy and regenerative medicine,” said NJIT President Dr. Joel Bloom.

Dr. Peter Marks, director of the center for biologics evaluation and research at the US Food & Drug Administration, commented that the center will help overcome the challenges in cell and gene therapy production and manufacturing.

“Right now, the throughput for cell and gene therapies is limited. We don’t fully understand how to manufacture therapies in a reproducible manner, from scaling up and scaling out. This type of facility will hopefully get us to the place where that will be possible,” Marks said.

Haro Hartounian, senior vice president and general manager of the biopharma division of NJII, explained that the center has two arms: a clinical manufacturing facility, and pilot plant for process development.

He added, “BioCentriq is a full-service, concept-to-clinic, contract manufacturing organization, where service is divided into four areas: process development, clinical production, application development, and workforce development. This is a hybrid approach where companies can bring in their own people to work with us in developing their products or producing their clinical materials.”

According to NJIT Chair Robert Cohen, who is also president of digital, robotics, and enabling technology at Stryker, “We have created a platform here that offers our partners all of the benefits of working with NJIT without any of the barriers that exist at most other university settings. The potential that could be achieved here through this type of partnership is incredible.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said that the facility will join New Jersey’s rich history of innovation. “There is potential here for more than just improved therapies that will treat symptoms of chronic and genetic diseases,” Murphy said. “There is potential here for cures. For anyone who has a loved one suffering from a rare and complex disease, the hope of seeing them live freely is closer to reality than ever before. I look forward to all that will come out of this incredible facility.”

Jose Lozano, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, commented, “New Jersey is home to groundbreaking cell and gene therapy companies that are leading the way in next-generation therapeutics. Today’s ribbon cutting at BioCentriq is another exciting chapter for the state’s innovation economy. We look forward to seeing how BioCentriq will advance the industry in years to come.”

Regarding the overall work and mission of NJII, Dr. Bloom said that when NJIT created the institute, “our vision was to form an entity that would serve as a platform for collaborations and partnerships with industry and government agencies.

“We wanted to create a structure that would enable us to apply the intellectual and technological resources available at one of the nation’s premier polytechnic universities to the challenges identified by public- and private-sector entities,” Bloom commented. “We were determined to do so in a way that eliminated barriers to collaboration between business and higher education. We have been very successful in that endeavor. NJII has conducted more than $80 million in business annually and has produced a 17-to-1-multiplier effect on the economy.”

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