BioNJ celebrates NJ innovation, growing pharma industry at annual dinner

Anthony Vecchione | NJBIZ

With the theme of celebrating innovation and recognizing the dominant role New Jersey plays in drug development, BioNJ celebrated its 2020 Annual Dinner Meeting in East Brunswick on Thursday.

“In 2019 there were 54 novel medicines approved by the FDA and more than 50 percent of them came from companies with a footprint in New Jersey,” said BioNJ President and Chief Executive Officer Debbie Hart.

“The state of the pharmaceutical industry in the state is growing, getting stronger and doing really important things,” Hart told NJBIZ.

At the event, BioNJ saluted innovators and patients with its Innovator Awards.

Mary Frances Harmon and Bob “BT” Tufts received the Heart of BioNJ Awards. Harmon is the senior vice president of corporate relations at PTC Therapeutics Inc. She was recognized for helping to create a unified vision for patient and government relations and implementing programs with patient groups.

Tufts, a patient advocate and industry advisor, received the award posthumously.

Merck & Co. Chairman of the board and CEO Ken Frazier was the recipient of the Dr. Sol Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership.

“I am here tonight because of the group that makes Merck successful, our scientists and drug developers. I am in awe of them and all they do for the patients we serve. It is because of their great work that I am able to accept this award … These words embody the value that we bring to our patients and society,” said Frazier.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-3rd District, told attendees that New Jersey prides itself on being the medicine chest of the world.

“A few years ago we made an investment in higher education for this industry. We wanted to recreate and restructure our education system at Rutgers University with the medical school, with research we gave Rowan university research designation, Montclair University research designation, we want to work with this industry to grow this industry. We want to demonstrate to this industry that New Jersey is the best place to be. We have the most scientists and professors in the state than anywhere else in the country,” said Sweeney.

Keynote speaker Sean Swarner, a two-time cancer survivor and a patient advocate, highlighted his mission of bringing hope to cancer patients.

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