Greater Philadelphia: The Epicenter of Cell and Gene Therapy Innovation

During June 3-6, the 2019 BIO International Convention attracted 19,000 biotech professionals and companies throughout the world to Philadelphia. Jeff Marrazzo of Spark Therapeutics shared what to expect at the BIO Convention and from the region, which he referred to as “a hotbed for gene and cell therapy innovation” in a Philadelphia Business Journal article.

On Monday night, the enthusiasm continued as a number of regional life science industry leaders and potential prospecting companies united at the Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences and Innovation Showcase to speak about the biotech advancements happening here in our region—“an epicenter of cell and gene therapy,” said guest speaker, Vai Sikahema, Sports Director & Anchor of NBC Philadelphia.

Dan Hilferty, CEO of Independence Health Group, shared his enthusiasm as a Philadelphia native, as a major participant in the growth of cell and gene therapy in our region, and as a leader of Greater Philadelphia’s largest health insurer. “This is a sales pitch. We want you here in Philadelphia. We are on a mission to make sure you pick Philadelphia.”

Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania, Hervé Hoppenot, CEO of Incyte in Wilmington, Bradley Campbell, COO of Amicus Therapeutics, Maria Fardis, CEO of Iovance Biotherapeutics, and Jeff Marrazzo, Cofounder and CEO of Spark Therapeutics also shared their experiences working in our region.

Campbell said, “We could have gone to Silicon Valley, or Cambridge, or anywhere in the world,” Instead, he said it was the spark, innovation, entrepreneurship, and universities that attracted the company to expand to Philadelphia.

Earlier this year, Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. relocated from Connecticut to Blue Bell, PA due to our regions biotech development and commercialization talent. These stories are common among the many leading companies in the life sciences that call Greater Philadelphia home.

New Biotech Training Facility Opens in Montgomery County

Thomas Jefferson University (Jefferson) opened their new Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing facility located in Montgomery County. The $7 million institute was established in partnership with the Dublin, Ireland-based National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training.

The institute is the first and only biopharmaceutical processing education and training institute in North America. Biopharmaceutical professionals and bioprocessing engineering students can receive education and training on producing biotherapeutic medicine.

Jefferson’s goal is to make the institute “the training ground” for the pharmaceutical industry, according to Dr. Mark K. Tykocinski, provost of Thomas Jefferson University and dean of its Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

The 250,000 square foot institute opened with eight employees and plans to expand up to 24 in the next three years.

Collaboration is a key factor in the bioprocessing institute, as it will work with local pharmaceutical companies and provide workforce training and certifications.

In 2017, Jefferson was named one of the top-rated hospitals in the country. Jefferson’s dedication to improving patients’ lives has earned them a number of awards over the years, adding to our region’s top-notch health care sector.

DuPont Stimulates Innovation Among Scientists, Businesses, and Customers

DuPont opened its global industrial biotech headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. The headquarters is located in their Experimental Station, Building E353, with four stories. The top floor is for executives and business professionals, and the remaining three floors are for research labs. DuPont has strategically created one place for scientists, customers, and businesspeople to stimulate innovation and communication.

“Innovation is not a department. Innovation is what we do as a company. It is the culture of the company,” said Alexa Dembek, Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer, DuPont in a recent Chemical Engineering News article.

The well-equipped labs provide scientists access to expensive and high-tech equipment. A number of studies are being conducted by scientists at DuPont’s Science & Innovation space:

  • Evaluating new enzymes in laundry detergents in DuPont’s screening lab.
  • Studying probiotic bacteria through an anaerobic chamber located in the building to reduce oxygen exposure.
  • Developing probiotic formulas to reduce farmer’s use of antibiotics by examining chicken gizzards from large farms.

Customers can also utilize real estate in the Experimental Station, which is where the Science & Innovation space is located.  DuPont is remodeling a previously used space into a ‘customer innovation center’ where customers can collaborate with DuPont executives and scientists.

Last fall, DuPont launched their AHEAD initiative to provide vehicle safety, performance, technology, and power solutions. DuPont is constantly growing our region’s research and innovation presence.

Hilton Garden Inn Will Overlook Camden Waterfront

After three years of planning, a Hilton Garden Inn will soon open along the Camden Waterfront. Camden, NJ has seen a rise in demand from local education and medical institutions, and local businesses to open the hotel as more visitors are traveling to Camden.

The project will generate nearly 75 local jobs and will be completed by the end of 2020.

The hotel will have 180 rooms available with 5,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant and bar, and 18 suites for long-term stays for guest traveling to southern New Jersey and seeking accessibility to Philadelphia.

A number of other expansion projects have been completed in Camden with $2.5 billion in new development, including the Philadelphia 76ers training complex, the Subaru of America Inc. headquarters, American Water headquarters, and the upcoming ResinTech relocation.

Businesses have been expanding to Camden in recent years due to the growth of innovation and health care facilities. Chase Bank opened a branch in April, which is expected to bring economic opportunity to the community.

Greater Philadelphia’s Biotech Industry Expands with Coworking Campus

The new Discovery Labs facility, a $500 million, approximately one million-square-foot coworking campus, will be located in Upper Merion, PA.

The coworking space is intended for health care, life sciences, and pharmaceutical companies, a recently trending market in Greater Philadelphia.

“There’s a surge of life science startups in Pennsylvania, with more than half of these companies staffing fewer than ten employees,” said Christopher Molineaux, CEO of Life Sciences Pennsylvania, in a statement. “The coworking lab facilities of Discovery Labs can help support the growth of small business with billions of dollars of infrastructure, so they can spend capital on development of new technologies and lifesaving and life enhancing products, making lab space affordable to startups of any size.”

Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County will occupy 100,000 square feet of the Discovery Labs. The business incubator called IQ Connect will allow for collaboration among researchers, entrepreneurs, and startups with venture capital, investment banking, and more.

“We are excited to expand our model to the Discovery Labs to build an environment that nurtures entrepreneurs and brings new discoveries to market,” said Lou Kassa, COO of the biotechnology center.

MLP Ventures, the owner of the Discovery Labs brand, plans to purchase more vacant lab and research facilities throughout the country. Along with this location in Upper Merion, PA, there are six other Discovery Labs in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Dublin, and London.

The coworking company, MakeOffices, expanded to Philadelphia in 2017. Coworking spaces have been opening throughout our region due to the rise in startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses that are looking for a cost-efficient office space.

A New Report on the ‘Spark of Opportunity’ for Life Sciences in Philadelphia

Colliers International, a global real estate services and investment management company with a special focus on the life sciences sector, has released its new Philadelphia Life Sciences Perspectives Report.

The report showcases Greater Philadelphia’s transformative life sciences sector, recognizing our attractive and competitive assets that set our region apart from other metropolitan areas.

Collier highlights Big Pharma, University and Institutional Research, and the Commercial R&D Inventory throughout our 11-county region, including University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Johnson and Johnson, and Incyte. Collectively, the three sectors make up 22.4 million square feet of life science real estate in the region. Pharmaceutical campuses in the region create more than 19,000 jobs, while consistently retaining and advancing talent.

The report features Amicus Therapeutics, a biotech company that recently relocated to Philadelphia. Amicus’s CEO, John Crowley shared why the company chose to locate and operate in our region, “Philadelphia became the clear choice as a burgeoning hub for medical breakthroughs… the area also provides a tremendous opportunity to advance our commitment to gene therapies.”

Our region has seen a rise in biotech companies throughout the county and around the world that are relocating or expanding operations here.

Select recently released our latest report called Business Is Greater Here, which showcases Greater Philadelphia’s growing workforce, innovation & entrepreneurship, highly-ranked life sciences, value & opportunity, transformations, energy sector, access to market, expanding technology industry, and competitive, low-cost livability all throughout our 11-county region.

University of Pennsylvania Using CRISPR to Treat Cancer

A U.S. gene-editing study using CRISPR, was approved as a cancer treatment at the University of Pennsylvania. Two cancer patients who relapsed after undergoing standard cancer treatment received treatment with CRISPR to date.

CRISPR is a technology that allows scientists to make precise modifications to DNA using targeted molecular tools. This revolutionary treatment will allow scientists to repair genetic defects by genetically modifying human cells. In the past, gene therapy would involve inserting new cells as treatment.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania will remove immune system cells from the patient, genetically modify the cells, and then insert the cells back into the patient to destroy the cancer cells.

While the CRISPR study at the University of Pennsylvania is in the clinical trial stage, researchers throughout the world expect gene editing to become a major breakthrough in the health care industry, with the power to cure various diseases.

The University of Pennsylvania is on the cutting edge of cancer research, just last year Penn scientists completed the first robot assisted spinal surgery. The scientist used a trans-oral robotics approach (TORS) to remove tumors, a groundbreaking procedure for cancer treatment happening here in Greater Philadelphia.

PhilaPort Will Soon Be Powered By Electricity

The Port of Philadelphia received two more post-Panamax cranes in late March, with the fifth crane expected to arrive this summer.

The five cranes were manufactured by the largest heavy-duty equipment manufacturer in the world, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC) and cost $12 million each.

This installation is a part of the $300 million terminal improvement project at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. The project includes strengthening and realigning the berth, adding five operational cranes, and removing warehousing.

With the addition of the fifth crane, all diesel emissions will be removed from the Port, and the Port will run entirely on electricity.

Last August, the Port of Paulsboro, also a port in Greater Philadelphia, received $1.5 million in improvements. The project involved the installation of a new water main and brought approximately 150 jobs to the region. Renovating our region’s ports will allow for greater accessibility to national and global markets.

PHL Real Estate Company Revitalizing Kensington

Philadelphia real estate company, D3 Developers, is developing a $16 million mixed-use project in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia called Huntingdon Mills.

The project will take over two historic brick-and-timber factories with a combined 65,000 square feet. Collectively, the buildings will have 39 apartments and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.

“I think people like being in a place where there is something good going on,” said Greg Hill, Founder and Managing Partner of D3 Developers.

D3 Developers is highly invested and involved in the restoration of Kensington. Six years ago, D3 launched a $36 million mission-based development project in South Kensington called Oxford Mills.  This project set aside discounted apartments for teachers and office space dedicated to educational nonprofits.

The current Huntingdon Mills project will target social service workers who would like to be close to the community they serve while keeping their private lives intact. CORA Services will occupy 9,000 square feet of the commercial space.

“This seems to be working and we wanted to see how we could translate that to another sector,” said Gabe Canuso, Managing Partner of D3 Development.

Huntingdon Mills is scheduled to open this fall.

Mixed-use projects have been happening all throughout our region. A local real estate developer built two structures for residential, office, retail, and parking space as a part of the North Broad revitalization.

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University Ranked as Top Medical School in the U.S.

U.S. News and World Report released a list of “10 Med Schools with the Lowest Acceptance Rates,” which included Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) in Camden, NJ.

CMSRU is a mission-driven school with a focus on developing highly-skilled physician leaders who value patient-centered, team approaches in health care. Students are provided small-group and self-directed learning with early immersion into patient care starting from their first month.

“Our mission and vision resonates with so many prospective students these days because they want to be educated in a humanistic environment that values inclusivity, professionalism, service, innovative teaching, research, and service to the community,” says CMSRU Dean Annette C. Reboli.

CMSRU admitted 3% of applicants to its M.D. program last year. The average acceptance rate among the top 10 was 2.4%. CMSRU ranked among nine well-respected medical programs, including University of California-Los Angeles, Mayo Clinic, Stanford, Georgetown, and Brown.

CMSRU gained full accreditation in 2016 after opening four years prior. The accreditation ensures that the institution is up to medical education standards. This ranking is a testament to our region’s substantial growth in the life sciences and health care industries.