A Biopharma Center Of Excellence Emerges In Newark, NJ


New Jersey has a long history of innovation in the pharmaceutical space. In traditional pharmaceutical manufacturing, drugs are made by blending natural and chemical compounds, then packaged and delivered to patients across the world.

In recent years, however, the state has become known for its biopharmaceutical activity. New Jersey companies and R&D institutes have been pioneers in the personalized medicine revolution. These medicines are derived from patients’ own cells and armed to fight deadly diseases like cancer. The first such therapy was brought to market from New Jersey.

Much as penicillin and other antibiotics transformed health and longevity in the 20th century, biopharma is transforming the 21st. These cutting-edge technologies are improving the effectiveness of drugs, reducing side-effects, and treating diseases that were once thought of as insurmountable.


New Jersey is taking a big step forward in the evolving world of cell and gene therapy with the formation of BioCentriq. This state-of-the-art cell and gene therapy process development and GMP manufacturing center is located on the Newark campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The center is completely dedicated to working with industry to address their needs in process development, manufacturing clinical supplies for clinical trials, and workforce development.

The center is managed by the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation owned by NJIT. NJII combines the intellectual and technological resources of a top-ranked public research university with experienced experts to address major challenges in the industry.

BioCentriq is the only industry-facing contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) dedicated to cell and gene therapies located on a university campus in the United States. It’s also the first facility of its kind in Newark, the state’s largest city.

The Biopharma team at NJII takes on cell and gene therapy projects from industry giants and innovative startups alike and provides customized solutions to the challenges they face. GMP clinical manufacturing is conducted in their industry leading cleanrooms equipped with the latest manufacturing technologies. The team has more than 90 years of collective experience in manufacturing services, which makes them perfect development partners for technology developers of any size. One of the things that’s unique about the center is its higher mission of helping the industry advance. This means BioCentriq welcomes partners that wish to gain skill and experience by working on-site collaborating with its scientists. BioCentriq’s team also works on traditional fee-for-service projects and pre-competitive development projects for companies that do not typically perform this work in-house. In all cases, the intellectual property generated at BioCentriq belongs to the client.


Though the fourth-smallest state in area, New Jersey is the most densely populated, and scores near the top nationwide in terms of education. It’s no wonder, then, that many of the top life sciences companies in the world call the state home. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis and Sanofi all have a footprint here. It turns out that these are the same biopharma companies that pioneer in cell and gene therapy. They are also a part of the BioCentriq advisory committee, which is a powerhouse of industry leaders. Working with BioCentriq provides clients access to the vast New Jersey biopharma ecosystem.

In addition, NJII is addressing the need for industry talent in biotech. NJII worked with NJIT to launch a 30-credit graduate program in cell and gene therapy in January 2020. It is part of the school’s Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science. Along with the Master’s degree, NJIT also offers a related four-course, 18-month apprenticeship certificate. The program gives select students access to exciting technology such as cell culture analyzers and virus bioreactors.


Newark was known as the Gateway City in the 20th century for its proximity to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as well as its massive airport, deep-water shipping port and extensive rail network. Its global connections are a defining feature.

The importance of connections remains today. NJII’s Biopharma team runs a program similar to an incubator called the BioFoundry. They work to link innovative companies with the support they need to grow. BioFoundry helps startups and other companies scale up by connecting them with capital, vetted talent, and established tech professionals for mentoring. It was created following the December 2018 awarding of a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, through its Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program.

Dr. Haro Hartounian is senior vice president and general manager of the Biopharma Division of NJII. To learn more about what’s happening at NJII visit www.njii.com/biopharma or www.biocentriq.com.

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