BioCentriq opens at NJII: ‘This is a complete game-changer for N.J.’

Cutting-edge cell and gene therapy development and clinical manufacturing center could be leader in finding cures — attracting more bio companies to state

New Jersey Institute of Technology President Joel Bloom said BioCentriq is the type of company the school had in mind when it created the New Jersey Innovation Institute in 2015 as a platform for collaboration and partnerships with industry and governmental agencies.

Gov. Phil Murphy said BioCentriq is the type of company he had in mind when he pledged to help rebuild the innovation economy in the state.

Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano said BioCentriq is the type of company his organization can use to bring other bio and life sciences companies here.

There was a lot of hype around the virtual ribbon cutting Friday for BioCentriq, NJII’s cutting-edge cell and gene therapy development and clinical manufacturing center located on the campus of the NJIT in Newark.

And what shouldn’t be overlooked in all the hoopla is this: BioCentriq is the type of company that specializes in gene and cell therapy that can create therapeutics that will be so vital in the post-pandemic world.

Dr. Haro Hartounian, a senior vice president and general manager of BioCentriq, said the company’s importance never has been greater.

“BioCentriq’s mission is to bring together industry, technology developers, academia and regulatory agencies to help advance the development and manufacturing of cell and gene therapies,” he said. “We are thrilled to open the doors to our center at a time when demand for process development and clinical manufacturing of cell and gene therapies exceeds capacity available from existing contract development and manufacturing organizations.

“Our goal is to provide a collaborative space where innovative approaches and technologies can be utilized to help make emerging therapeutics available to the patients that so desperately need them.”

Bloom couldn’t be happier to have BioCentriq on the campus, calling it one of NJII’s newest and most promising ventures.

“We have the capacity to help companies develop processes, conduct clinical production trials and train employees,” he said. “There is a massive need for what BioCentriq can provide. And our ability to fill that gap will translate into results that literally save and improve the quality of countless lives.”

Murphy said BioCentriq will join a group of globally recognized universities in medical centers in the state that are helping New Jersey reclaim its place as a leader in innovation.

“The advances taking place right now throughout our state — and the people in businesses that make up our robust innovation ecosystem — are all critical to guiding our economy into a post-pandemic world,” he said.

“And the developments in cell and gene therapy are among the most exciting and revolutionary. The potential here is for more than improved therapies that will treat symptoms of chronic and genetic diseases. The potential is for a cure. For anyone who has a loved one suffering with a rare and complex disease, the hope of seeing them live freely is closer to reality than ever before.”

Lozano said he feels BioCentriq will help build the state’s brand — and help Choose New Jersey attract more companies because of it.

“This is a complete game-changer for New Jersey,” he said. “This is exactly the type of innovative and forward-looking efforts that the governor set forth three years ago when he outlined our state’s innovation strategy.

“BioCentriq is a state-of-the-art facility that will attract cutting-edge companies and innovation from around the world.”

The virtual event brought an all-star list of attendees.

Robert Cohen, president digital, robotics, and enabling technology at Stryker, and Simon Nynens, the CEO of NJII, made opening remarks.

Pall Biotech, the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, BMS, Cytiva, Panasonic Healthcare and Novartis were recognized, along with the 12 industry leaders who make up the biopharma advisory council, for their contributions of equipment, funding and expertise.

And Dr. Peter Marks, director of the center for biologics evaluation and research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, spoke about the importance of cell and gene therapies and the role of the FDA in streamlining, removing hurdles and providing support to improve the availability of these therapies.

Marks also talked about the importance of collaborative efforts like BioCentriq to help accelerate advancements and innovation.

Hartounian not only premiered a video tour of the facility, he led a panel discussion on the future of cell and gene therapy manufacturing with Dr. Kelvin Lee, director of the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing, Janet Lynch Lambert, CEO of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, and Dr. Greg Russotti, chief technology officer of Century Therapeutics.

To see the recorded event, click here.

For Bloom, it was another day marking the success of NJII, which was founded in 2015.

Bloom said it has been a hit since it opened — and that NJII now conducts more than $80 million in business annually, producing a 17-to-1 multiplier effect on the state economy.

“When NJIT created the New Jersey Innovation Institute, our vision was to form an entity that would serve as a platform for collaboration and partnerships with industry and governmental agencies,” he said. “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 challenges identified by private- and public-sector entities. And we were determined to do so in a way that eliminates barriers to collaboration between business and higher education.

“Our model was one where our external partners would identify the challenge and the timeline, and we would build a team and process to develop a solution that meets their needs.”