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CCIT Tenant SkinAxis Benefits from Incubator’s Educational Programs

TRENTON (August 20, 2015) – When the Board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) held its monthly meeting at the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) in North Brunswick last week, it had the opportunity to hear about a broad array of resources the 46,000 square-foot life sciences incubator provides to the two dozen emerging biotechnology companies that currently call it “home.” 
 
One of these companies is SkinAxis. SkinAxis creates novel skin and tissue equivalents that provide a flexible, highly-sensitive, and reproducible platform for investigation and drug discovery in both normal and diseased tissues under a variety of physiological conditions. Specifically, model systems generated by SkinAxis include a melanoma 3D skin equivalent that can be used for the screening of anti-melanoma drugs, as well as oral and cervicovaginal 3D skin equivalents for anti-viral and anti-fungal drug discovery. In addition to its standard offerings, the company develops customized models that may include different cell types to address specific customers’ needs.
 
Representatives from SkinAxis recently attend the CCIT-hosted “Meet with Money” session where Jesse Treu from Domain Associates discussed 14 essential startup factors. The biotechnology company also benefited from Executive-in-Residence Neil Milano’s presentation about convertible debt financing.
 
“The educational opportunities available to startup companies at CCIT are invaluable,” SkinAxis Chief Executive Officer Luca Gusella said. “These programs give entrepreneurs the chance to share ideas, and acquire information that helps us entrepreneurs build our businesses.”   
 
Through a variety of educational programs like “Meet with Money” and “Lunch and Learn,” CCIT brings in a variety of New Jersey experts to speak in both formal and informal settings about topics of interest to entrepreneurs. These presentations are open to the technology community, as is the recently-launched “Executive-in-Residence Presentation Series,” during which CCIT Executives-in-Residence discuss topics in their areas of expertise.
 
CCIT’s ongoing Executive-in-Residence program consists of appointed executives mentoring and coaching emerging life science companies through a series of weekly office hours. CCIT tenants can seek advice from executives on a range of topics, including business development, commercialization, partnering and licensing, health economics, regulatory, and reimbursement.
 
@NJEDATech spoke with Gusella about the company’s experience at CCIT and its plans for the future:
 
What is SkinAxis’s biggest success to date?
We have generated a new technology that has led to relationships with leading cosmetic companies. In addition, the interest shown by chemical and pharmaceutical companies in our skin models not only validates SkinAxis’ existing technologies, but also provides the possibility to extend the application of our models across other industries.
 
What’s on the horizon for SkinAxis?
We offer competitive, innovative technology that can maximize the value of preclinical models and reduce the need for testing on live animals -- a goal that is important to our mission. We are a young company, so we are cognizant of the challenges we face. The first challenge is the marketing of our products and services, and the second is to get the funding necessary to pursue new development. We are currently focusing on increasing our customer base and continuing to innovate and leading the science in this field. We have received very positive feedback from current customers and believe that the future of SkinAxis is bright. 
 
What have you found most helpful during your time at CCIT?
I would say it has been the networking opportunities. As creators of novel technologies and products, we tend to focus mainly on the scientific aspects of the business. This is essential, of course, but there are many other issues that are important to a venture’s success. 
 
In establishing a business, there are various layers of complexity that require operational, legal, financial organization and skills that may not be internally available, particularly at the early stages of an enterprise. CCIT provides a vibrant environment for connecting with other entrepreneurs and professionals who have experience and knowledge in areas where we may be lacking. Some of these connections have developed into business relationships that have given structure to our business. In other instances, our interactions with fellow tenants at CCIT have lead to collaboration. We have also received invaluable advice through the Executive-in-Residence Program.
 
For more information about the resources that CCIT offers, visit http://www.njeda.com/ccit and follow @NJEDATech on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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