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Born to Run

Born to Run

Fledgling biotechs get a running start at New Jersey’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies

Founded as a DNA-sequencing company, GENEWIZ had been in business for three years before moving to CCIT in 2002 with a handful of employees. “By providing us with a first-class facility with ready-to-move-in laboratory space in the heart of the pharmaceutical corridor, we were able to gain access to leading blue-chip pharmaceutical corporations, emerging biotechnology companies and top-tier research institutions,” says Steve Sun, CEO and cofounder of GENEWIZ. “As we grew, being part of CCIT also enabled us to bring in high-caliber talent that set us up for continued success.”

Today, GENEWIZ operates 12 genomic laboratories across the United States and around the world, employing more than 600 people. GENEWIZ, which received continued support from the EDA as a CCIT graduate, also spun out a new company, Admera Health, a genomics-based molecular diagnostics company focused on personalized medicine, non-invasive cancer testing and digital health.

Developing immunotherapies to combat various diseases, including human papillomavirus (HPV)–associated cancers, prostate cancer and certain aggressive types of cancerous solid tumors, Advaxis is a 2011 graduate of CCIT. Advaxis also benefited from the state’s Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer program and through financial support was able to transition from a penny-stock company to a national exchange.

Advaxis CEO Daniel O’Connor says the incubator program provided a community “where success connects with success and grows from there.” He says this was particularly helpful for outsourcing opportunities, especially in a state with proximity to major cities and with so many skilled professionals in such a densely populated area.

The fledgling company hit many milestones along the way, including the award of US$1.1 million from the FDA’s Orphan Products Grants Program. The grant, given over the course of three years to Baylor College of Medicine, was for an ongoing Phase II trial of the company’s lead immunotherapy, axalimogene filolisbac (ADXS-HPV), in HPV-associated head and neck cancers. More recently, Advaxis was honored with the Farrah Fawcett Foundation’s inaugural Medical Visionary Angel Award, for its commitment to innovative research in anal and HPV-related cancers.

Chromocell Corporation
When he looks back at his time in the incubator program, Chromocell CEO Christian Kopfli says it wasn’t just CCIT’s discounted lab space and related services, providing advice on everything from the regulatory process to taxes, that ultimately positioned his company for success, but also the sense there of collaboration with other entrepreneurs.

“The incubator program has really built a solid connection to the industry—surrounded by all the big pharmas like Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi—and is really active in establishing regular contact between the incubator participants and potential partners,” he says.

Chromocell, which started out by commercializing its Chromovert technology, focuses on therapeutic indications that leverage the ability of Chromovert to rapidly create cell lines and assays that were previously out of reach. With products in development for pain relief and a division focused on flavors research, the company today employs more than 120 people.

Illustration by Greg Betza

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