Face Off: Developing the cures of tomorrow

Face Off: Developing the cures of tomorrow

2022-05-10T14:53:50-04:00May 10th, 2022|Healthcare & Life Sciences, North & Central Jersey|

Kean University

Writer: Joshua Andino

4 min read  May 2022New Jersey has long enjoyed its status as the medicine chest of the world. Researchers, scientists and their companies are hard at work addressing the healthcare concerns of the future, benefitting from New Jersey’s robust research ecosystem and finding new ways to develop the cures of tomorrow. 

To better understand what the future holds for the state’s life sciences industry, Invest: spoke with two leaders, Stuart Peltz and Anthony Mancini, to glean their insights.

What are some of the key innovations you’ve been developing?

Stuart Peltz, CEO, PTC Therapeutics

As a company you can choose the path that you want to go down, and a goal for us has been to use the tools and science developed in our laboratory that hadn’t been used before. That’s where Translarna, for nonsense mutation Duchenne muscular dystrophy, came from. Utilizing our novel splicing platform, we also discovered and developed a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy with Roche and the SMA Foundation, and we also have a gene therapy program for dopamine deficiency. The targeted gene therapy gets injected directly into a region of the brain to make dopamine, helping babies develop normally and continue to grow.

What do you consider the key challenge you’re hoping to address?

Anthony Mancini, Executive Vice President & COO, Genmab

Genmab is really focused on its vision to transform cancer treatment and developing next generation, differentiated antibody therapies. A challenge for the industry is to get meaningfully improved, safe and effective medicines to patients as efficiently as possible. 

Our goal is always to develop innovative antibody therapeutics and to get them to patients. Recently, we have built a development and commercialization team to launch our first medicine in the U.S. by partnering with another biotech. It’s a treatment for women with metastatic and recurrent cervical cancer; this is an area of high unmet medical need, so we are proud to make a much-needed new medicine available to these patients. 

I am proud that at Genmab, we are taking on the challenge to positively impact some very serious diseases and trying to make the biggest difference to patients. We are dedicated to creating value across the healthcare ecosystem in the U.S. and beyond to become a trusted and valued partner to all stakeholders along the patient journey. 

What does your organization’s growth say about New Jersey’s life sciences ecosystem? 

Peltz:

We started in 1998 out of Rutgers University with only a couple of individuals. Now we have about 1,200 employees, with over 700 in New Jersey. These are high-paying jobs with advanced degrees such as master’s, Ph.D.s and medical degrees. The fact that we are a company that has been around for a while and continues to do well inspires other companies to start here. Having a strong local talent pool is also attractive. 

With roots from Rutgers University, we looked to grow the company nearby. We have administrative offices and a laboratory in South Plainfield and a research facility in Bridgewater. In Hopewell, we have a large-scale manufacturing facility so we are spread throughout. PTC has not only grown organically, we have grown by merger and acquisitions, bringing in two companies that have made us national and global. We’ve found that in New Jersey we can be entrepreneurial and innovative at the same time. 

The way to get biotech to grow is to have a strong biotech infrastructure. We are a good example of something that is a concept that came out of a university and grew into an enduring biopharmaceutical company that creates products to distribute to patients. Hopefully, more will continue to follow. 

Mancini: 

We’ve implemented a shift in our strategy and made a decision to transform from a research-focused company to a fully integrated biotech, which meant we needed to have the right capabilities to not only discover but to clinically develop and commercialize the innovative antibody medicines that we were creating. At this stage, we are developing many of our medicines in 50-50 partnerships with other companies. In the future, we are looking to fully own more of what we do. This means doing more end to end from bench to bedside, which is exciting as we have already made strong steps in that direction. Our employee base has grown as a result, not just in New Jersey but also in our other locations in Copenhagen, Tokyo and the Netherlands. New Jersey is now our biggest location. In order to achieve our vision to transform cancer treatment and make the biggest impact on patients, our footprint will continue to expand. 

We’ve had a presence here for the last 23 years, but we’ve stayed because of the talent in the area. We’ve also received incentives from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which came with job creation targets in the state. I’m proud to say that we’ve far exceeded those job creation targets. We believe we can build an innovation ecosystem here. We are an active participant in our local community and have partnerships with local universities, trade organizations and multiple charitable organizations. As we are growing into an integrated biotech, we are also developing partnerships with all the stakeholders in the U.S. healthcare ecosystem to bring our medicines to patients. 

What does the industry require for growth over the next two to three years? 

Peltz:

When you think of biotech, what you need is a good ecosystem of universities, which is what we have in New Jersey. I would like to see more investment funds in this area to make it easier for people to start new companies, but there is plenty of money out there so there is still potential for growth. There are a lot of good reasons as to why this is a good place to build a biotech company. This region provides a good quality of life, good education and is a great place for families to live and work.  

What are your thoughts on biotech’s future in New Jersey?

Mancini: 

First, a successful biotech career is possible right here in New Jersey! We have a strong track record of success and are a profitable biotech company; in fact, 2021 was our ninth consecutive year of profitability, which is unique for a biotech company. This strong financial base has given us confidence to continue investing in all areas of our business including growing our presence in New Jersey. I believe we are just getting started. We launched our first medicine for cervical cancer patients with an esteemed partner. Our team is also preparing to launch another medicine soon, pending regulatory approvals. This strong foundation will guide us towards our 2025 vision: Genmab’s product will transform cancer treatment. 

For more information, please visit: 

https://www.genmab.com/

https://www.ptcbio.com/