BioNJ is involved in ensuring that New Jersey retains its leading position as a center of global life sciences by facilitating the industry’s development.
Since its establishment in 1994, BioNJ has grown to support some 400 members. Could you briefly outline the development of the association and its main objectives?
At BioNJ, our mission is to ensure a robust life sciences ecosystem in New Jersey in which science is supported, companies are created, drugs are developed, and patients are paramount. As we say at BioNJ, patients can’t wait, and this ultimately drives everything we do. We deliver our services in four categories. The first is public policy, making sure that state and federal government advance the industry by supporting medical innovation. The second is networking and education–we know that the number one reason that people come to BioNJ is to meet other people in the ecosystem. We therefore create approximately 40 opportunities annually, allowing our members to network and educate themselves in the fields they are interested in. The third category is services, of which an example would be our negotiation of a high volume purchasing agreement with Fisher Scientific, resulting in savings of up to $6 million last year for our members. Other service areas include insurance, delivery and relocation. Finally, the fourth category is workforce development, making sure that talent finds the right companies, and companies find the right talent. Over the years, the industry in New Jersey has grown from about 30 companies, strictly in biotech, to over 400. Our members include those in biotech as well as big pharma, medical devices, academic institutions and service providers that support the life sciences industry.
What are some recent examples in which BioNJ has been involved in the state’s policy making?
We are proud that in the last few months, BioNJ was actively involved in having two important initiatives signed into law. One was the establishment of the Biotechnology Task Force. BioNJ will have seats on that task force appointed by the governor. This allows us to go throughout the state and look for opportunities in policy, incentives, and programs that will help to support and strengthen the industry. Even more recently, the governor signed into law another initiative that established a governmental entity intended to facilitate business and academic partnerships across the state. BioNJ will also have a seat on this commission.
In what ways can BioNJ help guide the industry through a period of uncertainty in light of the new Administration?
New Jersey is in a particularly unique position at the moment as we are also in the process of electing our new governor. While we expect some challenges, we also believe there will be opportunities, reflecting the government’s support of this vital industry that contributes so much to the economic fabric our state and the country. BioNJ is committed to act as an industry advocate to ensure that all parties across the spectrum understand the value of medical innovation and what this industry delivers to patients and to the economy.
Have there been any recent developments or shifts in R&D focus?
There is currently a strong focus on personalized medicine, and this will continue to be the way many medicines are developed and patients are treated. New Jersey is a leader in personalized medicine and immunotherapies, and we are very proud of the developments in immunotherapies by a number of our companies.
A challenge that needs to be addressed is the time frame (10 to 15 years) and cost (upwards of $2 billion) to develop a drug and bring it to market. It requires significant financial resources over a long period of time to bring drugs forward. Since this is such a risky and expensive process, especially for smaller companies, a key initiative of BioNJ is to connect these companies with VC’s and investors of all types that are willing to invest in them.
New Jersey was at the forefront of legislation for biosimilars in 2015. How is this area developing?
New Jersey was indeed a leader in passing biosimilar legislation. Our state was able to balance the need for patient access while always protecting the safety and wellbeing of patients. Biosimilars is a growing industry in New Jersey with many large companies developing their own biosimilars. Also, several smaller companies are coming to New Jersey to develop and manufacture bisosimilars. New Jersey is proud to be developing a strong business in biosimilars, in addition to the significant presence of a biopharmaceutical branded and generics industry. The composition of New Jersey’s industry reflects the entire spectrum of companies and support organizations.
How do you expect the industry to develop, and what will BioNJ’s role be in its growth?
I am bullish on the industry and on New Jersey. While there will be policy and financial challenges in the future, the opportunities are immense. BioNJ will continue to support companies already in New Jersey and to attract more life sciences companies to our state. Working closely with policy makers in Washington and New Jersey, we will advocate for a policy environment that supports medical innovation and ensures faster treatments and cures for patients. BioNJ is committed to the growth and prosperity of our industry and that patients have access to innovative medicines to improve and save their lives. Because, patients can’t wait.