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New Jersey’s Leaders in Life Sciences Gather at Kean University

The Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship (ILSE) recently  held its inaugural Stakeholder Forum at its headquarters and laboratories in the state-of-the-art STEM building on the campus of Kean University. Nearly 50 leaders from academia, biotech, pharma, the public sector and venture capital converged to explore the theme of the forum, “Working Together to Transform the Life Sciences Ecosystem in New Jersey.” The agenda included networking, an information session, and roundtable luncheon discussions focused on how the various collaborators can address the opportunities and challenges facing our regional life sciences community.

“The face of traditional biopharma research and development (R&D) is evolving. Single company-centered, fully integrated R&D is being replaced by externally facing collaborative and entrepreneurial approaches to access technology and innovation. Academia and early stage biotech are increasingly important players in the health care discovery arena,” said Dr. Keith Bostian, Interim CEO of ILSE and Dean of Kean’s New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics (NJCSTM). “Yet both are often faced with infrastructure and expertise challenges across the spectrum of skills needed to translate innovation into commercially viable R&D programs. Thus, there is both a major need and opportunity for development.”

ILSE is an independent non-profit translational research institute founded in 2014. The Institute’s mission is to identify and advance early life science innovation by creating a regional ecosystem that can foster start-ups and entrepreneurship. ILSE’s mission is to become a leader for the life science ecosystem in the NJ region *via *collaborations and in-house research-based activities that bridge the gap between academic and industrial science.

“ILSE, like the Research & Development Council of New Jersey (RDNJ), will assist New Jersey in strengthening an already very strong STEM economy and securing its future as a leader in STEM, nationally and globally,” said Kim Case Esq., Executive Director of RDNJ. “The Research & Development Council of New Jersey sees itself as a strategic partner of ILSE.  Our organization has a 50-plus year history. During that history, we have worked with many bio organizations throughout the state, so we see ourselves as a connector for ILSE and those it seeks to engage as well as an advocate for ILSE’s goals.”

Plans for ILSE include the use of an open-access framework within a nonprofit structure subsidized by for-profit investment funds, according to Dr. Bostian. “Our strategy is to leverage the vast talent pool and infrastructure resident within and beyond the New Jersey area to advance new life science innovation sourced both locally and worldwide. So, partnering with leaders in the life sciences community is essential to ILSE achieving this mission.”

Another one of those leaders is Pamela Demain, head of relationship management within business development for Merck, and board member of BioNJ, two important partners of ILSE. “We’re always interested in getting involved with venture initiatives and opportunities to collaborate with scientists, as well as to support R & D in New Jersey,” said Demain. “The challenge is to find truly game-changing science, not incremental discoveries, but totally disruptive science.” The Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship seeks to find those venture initiatives and to lead them forward in ways that will transform science and ultimately save lives.

“Because of the depth of talent, experience and knowledge that resides in New Jersey, our state boasts of one of the most diverse and rich life sciences ecosystems in the world,” said Debbie Hart, President and CEO of BioNJ. “ILSE is poised to play an important role in strengthening communications within the community, with the ultimate goal of benefiting patients through the discovery and development of therapies and cures that address unmet medical needs.”

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