Several years ago, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) President Joel Bloom tasked the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), an NJIT company, to determine the best way to support innovation in New Jersey’s biopharma industry. NJII hired Haro Hartounian, Ph.D., an industry veteran, as general manager of its Biopharma division who began his quest for answers.
Dr. Hartounian’s industry leader interviews and research revealed that the meteoric rise of potential cell and gene therapies was outpacing the manufacturing processes and production capabilities needed to ensure those therapies could be commercially viable and affordable. He also learned there was a significant shortage in skilled workers capable of meeting the rising employer demand. With this insight, NJIT immediately dedicated space in its Newark Campus Life Sciences Building and set aside funds to address the issues.
It took 12 months and $7.5 million to renovate and rebuild the 3,200-square-foot Life Sciences space – now the BioCentriq Cell and Development Center – into an ISO-7 certified GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) clinical manufacturing center. Soon after the center opened last October, the first such center in Newark, the BioCentriq team began working with cell and gene therapy developers to guide them through the long laboratory bench-to-clinical trial process. Employees were hired to work in both the clinical production facility on NJIT’s Newark campus and in the pilot plant in South Brunswick. NJIT launched a cell and gene therapy master’s program and training courses are consistently provided to industry partners to help bridge the skills gap and develop a highly qualified, local workforce.
BioCentriq’s goal is to become a center of excellence for cell and gene therapy development and manufacturing, and to make these therapies accessible to patients who need them. As a result of this project and the launch of BioCentriq, New Jersey already has gained recognition as an emerging hub in cell and gene therapy, one of the fastest growing and most promising fields of personalized medicine.
Gilbane Building Company
NJ Innovation Institute
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