N.J. DOL awards first innovation fellowship grant to Visikol scientist

The state Department of Labor & Workforce Development has awarded its first New Jersey Innovation and Research Fellowship Program grant, it announced this week, aiming to support technological research and the innovation economy.

Peter Worthington, a Jersey City resident working for Whitehouse Station-based Visikol, will receive $115,000 in grant stipend funding over two years in support of his research with the biotechnology company, according to a news release from the DOL.

“This is a first-of-its-kind research opportunity that will help reaffirm New Jersey’s historic role as a state of innovation,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a prepared statement. “We are proud to financially support these fellows, as their educational journeys are vital to our innovation workforce.”

The IRFP aims to help businesses drive innovation and encourage Ph.D. candidates and recipients and their companies to remain and do business in New Jersey. The grants fund fellows’ salaries at up to $65,000 for the first year and up to $75,000 for the second year, with second-year costs split between the grant money (two-thirds) and the company (one-third).

That means Worthington will receive $50,000 in grant funding in the second year, with $25,000 paid by Visikol.

“New Jersey has long been known as a leader in the pharmaceutical space,” he said in a statement. “It is gratifying to know that, in a state filled with innovation, the work I am doing at Visikol was selected as worthy of award.”

At Visikol, Worthington focuses on designing and implementing humanized cell-based models, helping the company study the effectiveness of drugs and evaluate their risks — while minimizing the need for animal studies.

“We have been very fortunate to be able to build our company in New Jersey,” Visikol CEO Michael Johnson said in a statement. “Through this grant, we have been able to support Dr. Worthington, an expert in his field, whose advanced research will allow us to help pharmaceutical companies reduce the cost and time to develop life-saving therapeutics.”