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Biotech Industry Leaders to Share Tips on Launching and Funding University Spinoffs

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Moderator & panelists will offer entrepreneurs guidance and recommendations on launching and funding new endeavors. From left: Vincent Smeraglia, Dr. Michael Johnson, Dr. Benjamin Belinka, and Christian Kopfli.

North Brunswick, N.J. (June 6, 2017) – With the goal of helping to transform technological achievements into commercial successes, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) will host “Launching & Funding Biotech University Start-Ups” on June 15. Panelists will describe their companies’ paths to spinning off from universities, and offer entrepreneurs guidance and recommendations on launching and funding new endeavors.

“Capitalizing on the new technologies advancing in our world-class universities is key to the continued growth of New Jersey’s innovation ecosystem,” EDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Melissa Orsen said. “Through programs like the upcoming university spinoff panel, we are working to establish a greater link between industry and academia and help pave the way for successful technology transfer.”

Held at the EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) in North Brunswick, the discussion will begin at 5:00 p.m. and is open to the public. The event is co-sponsored by BioNJ, the New Jersey Technology Council, and Rutgers University. Those interested in attending should register online at www.njeda.com/academicspinoffpanel.

Panelists include Visikol® Founder & CEO Dr. Michael Johnson, Actinobac Biomed, Inc. President and CEO Dr. Dr. Benjamin Belinka, and Chromocell Corporation Co-Founder and CEO Christian Kopfli. The panel will be moderated by Vincent Smeraglia, Executive Director, Strategic Alliances at Rutgers University.

The panelists hail from companies that are either current CCIT tenants or graduates. CCIT is a 46,000-square-foot life sciences incubator that is currently home to nearly 20 businesses. With 27 wet labs and access to offices, conference rooms, a supportive staff and a variety of additional resources, CCIT is ideal for emerging companies looking to grow in the Garden State, and offers discounted space for academic spin-off companies.  

CCIT is located within the Technology Centre of New Jersey, a 75-acre research park that houses such companies as Chromocell and Orthobond (another CCIT graduate), Allergan, and Merial. 

Companies interested in touring CCIT or the Technology Centre should visit www.njeda.com/CCIT or contact Lenzie Harcum at lharcum@njeda.com.

About the panelists:

Dr. Michael Johnson started working on Visikol® while he was pursuing a doctorate in applied microbiology at Rutgers University. Working with an advisory team of Dr. James Simon and Dr. Adolfina Koroch, Visikol® was conceived in the plant biology labs at Rutgers University as a safe and easy-to-use clearing agent for plant biology research. The technology has now expanded into a platform that is used for a wide-range of applications from cancer biology to understanding human fetal development. Visikol arrived at CCIT in March 2016. Johnson was recently named to Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list for science.

Rutgers University spinoff Actinobac Biomed develops therapeutics for multiple indications, including blood cancers, autoimmune/inflammatory diseases, and HIV. The company graduated CCIT in 2013. Before joining Actinobac, Dr. Benjamin Belinka was employed as Executive Vice President at Virium, Inc., Vice President of Chemistry at VectraMed, Inc., Director of Preclinical Research at Cytogen Corporation and supervisor of Process Research Laboratories at Sandoz, Inc. (now Novartis). Dr. Belinka obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a B.S. degree in Chemistry from King’s College.

Christian Kopfli has grown Chromocell from its beginnings in 2002 as a spinoff from New York’s Rockefeller University, into an innovative biotechnology company that now employees over 120 people. The company is focused on discovering new drugs to manage pain and develops and commercializes novel technologies beneficial to the average consumer - including new flavors, nutritional ingredients and therapeutics. After co-founding Chromocell, Kopfli initially served as the company’s general counsel before becoming CEO in 2005. Kopfli is a Board Member of BioNJ and was admitted to the Bar in New York and Switzerland.

About the moderator:

Vincent (Vince) Smeraglia works on behalf of Rutgers University to develop collaborative biomedical relationships with universities, foundations and corporate partners. He was previously the Executive Director of the Rutgers Office of Technology Commercialization, overseeing patenting and licensing of Rutgers-born inventions. He was also the Executive Director of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) Office of Technology Transfer & Business Development before UMDNJ and Rutgers merged. Before joining UMDNJ/Rutgers, Smeraglia conducted biomedical research at Cytogen Corporation, developing antibody conjugates for diagnostic and therapeutic clinical uses.
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