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Spotlight on Executive-in-Residence: Rick Winneker

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently unveiled its second group of Executive-in-Residence (EIR) appointees. These highly-skilled life sciences professionals will mentor and advise emerging companies at EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) in North Brunswick. The EIR program was created in collaboration with BioNJ.  

Over the next few weeks, @NJEDATech will continue to delve into the back-stories of these EIRs; next up is Rick Winneker, of Margate.

Rick Winneker (Executive-in-Residence – Research Communications, Strategic Planning and Partnering) brings 30 years of experience, specializing in drug discovery and development, and life sciences research and organizational strategic planning to his mentorship role at CCIT. Throughout his career, Winneker has worked in all phases of research and development, including building pharmaceutical research organizations. He has shaped, and led, several pharmaceutical research departments in endocrinology and women’s health that resulted in 14 compounds being delivered to the development pipeline along with four registered products. While Winneker plans to focus his mentoring role on research communications, strategic planning and partnering, he looks forward to sharing his knowledge on a broad array of areas with tenants at the life sciences incubator.

Winneker will deliver a presentation at CCIT to the technology community on February 12 at noon about strategies to get funding and other helpful resources from disease foundations such as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and many others.

Prior to becoming an EIR, Winneker spent five years as a Senior Vice President at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, building and leading a research group focused on the goal of improving the standard of care and accelerating cures for patients with blood cancers. He also worked for nearly 15 years at Wyeth Research, spearheading a drug discovery group focused on contraception, menopausal symptoms and reproductive disorders in women.

Winneker earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University, a Master of Science degree in physiology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a PhD in anatomy from the University of Minnesota.

Although he has just started in his role at the life sciences incubator, he has already met with numerous tenant companies, including SunGen Pharma, Grace Therapeutics, Ascendia Pharmaceuticals, Shionogi Inc., Bellerophon Therapeutics and Nexomics Biosciences.

@NJEDATech asked Winneker about the EIR Program and his plans for the future:

Why did you choose to apply to the Executive-in-Residence program?

While looking for my next full time job, I like to keep busy and contribute to the life sciences community. I’m pleased to be doing some consulting work and volunteering my time while actively networking. It was Vicky Gaddy from BioNJ that brought the opportunity at CCIT to my attention.  I really enjoy advising, coaching and mentoring other scientists and entrepreneurs, so this looked like a great chance to do just that.

What do you hope to get out of this Executive-in-Residence program?

I hope to use my extensive experience to help some of these new companies and their leaders succeed in any way that I can, whether it be to raise money, make new contacts, build better strategic plans or simply sharpen their communications.  I am also looking forward to meeting new people, expanding my job seeking and personal network and becoming more familiar with the biotech startup community in this region of New Jersey. I am pleased to say that I have already met many interesting people during my visits to CCIT including the other new EIRs and have participated in several EDA events.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard over the years that you hope to impart on these emerging life sciences companies?

I would offer two pieces of advice.  First, while it is extremely important to work hard and be passionate about your science and your company, you shouldn’t forget to have some fun, enjoy the experience and be sure to save time for your family and kids. Your children grow up very fast and you can’t get that time back.  Second, don’t forget that even great science can’t overcome bad management and poor planning. It’s critical that you have the right people in place at the right time to lead your company.  I have seen too many examples of poor management killing a great scientific opportunity or delaying its implementation. This is one place where the EIRs can help.

What is the next challenge you want to undertake in your career?

Ideally, I would love to find a leadership position in a biotech life sciences company.  While I have worked closely with many biotech companies over the years, both while leading a research organization in big pharma and as a funder and strategic partner at a disease foundation, becoming a member of the biotech leadership team would represent a new and welcome challenge for me. I feel my skills would lend great value to the right biotech company. Having said that, I am open to any opportunity where I can work with great people in an area of science and medicine that can truly have a positive impact on the lives of patients and their families.

More information about EIR program, including eligibility, can be found at www.njeda.com/EIR.

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