New Jersey Scientists and Doctors are Helping Patients Fight Cancer

CANCER IS A frightening diagnosis, and a deadly disease. “It is projected that in 2018 more than 53,000 New Jerseyans will hear the message that they have cancer,” according to Brian Shott, New Jersey Government Relations director for The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “More than 16,000 of our state’s residents will lose their lives to cancer this year.”

New, advanced treatments are needed to improve the odds for affected patients, and to provide physicians with the best tools available for combating this proven “killer.” Cancer is a leading cause of death that continues to challenge the medical profession’s brightest minds.

Even IBM’s mighty Watson supercomputer is being engaged in the treatment process, using its vast data capacity to compile treatment best practices and share lessons learned and protocols with every caregiver and cancer patient.

In support of this worthy quest, the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), an NJIT corporation, is making important strides in cell and gene therapy research and development through its Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center, which seeks to advance cancer treatments with state-of-the-art technologies (Treatments for other diseases are also part of its research.) NJIT is a member of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

NJII’s Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center

NJII’s Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center provides training, education and workforce development solutions to provide cell and gene therapy companies with highly skilled scientists, engineers and manufacturing professionals. The center also serves as a hub for collaboration between industry, government and regulatory agencies, technology developers and academia to advance the development of cell and gene therapies.

In fact, NJII’s Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center recently launched a training program to upgrade the knowledge and skills of biopharmaceutical professionals in the processing of new, breakthrough classes of biologic therapies.

“This training initiative demonstrates NJII’s commitment to advance cell and gene therapy manufacturing and processing innovation,” explains NJII President and CEO Dr. Donald H. Sebastian.

The workforce training program is in response to increasing demands from the biopharmaceutical industry for engineers and scientists to be trained in manufacturing and processing of the newest biologic and immunotherapies, such as advanced CAR-T cancer therapy. The program will combine lectures and hands-on training to introduce the newest approaches and technologies applied to the development and production of these innovative therapies.

Hackensack Meridian Health

Hackensack Meridian Health, also a member of CIANJ, recently joined NJII’s Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center to access the center’s process development and clinical manufacturing capabilities. Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., chief innovation officer and president of Physician Enterprise for Hackensack Meridian Health, has agreed to serve as chairman of the center’s technical advisory committee.

A certified hematologist/oncologist, Dr. Pecora is recognized internationally as one of the world’s foremost experts in blood and marrow stem cell transplantation, cellular medicine and immunology research. In 1989, he spearheaded the development of Hackensack Meridian Health’s John Theurer Cancer Center’s Adult Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation Program and is responsible for many advancements used in stem cell transplantation today.

National Institutes of Health

“Cancer is caused by changes to DNA that affect the way cells grow and divide,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “There are at least 200 forms of cancer, with many subtypes. Identifying the changes in each cancer’s complete set of DNA (genome) and understanding how these changes interact to drive the disease will lay the foundation for improving cancer prevention, early detection and tailored treatments.”

The Cancer Genome Atlas—launched in 2005 by NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute and National Cancer Institute to map the key genomic changes in cancer—just finished a detailed genomic analysis of 33 types of cancer.

“This better understanding of how, where and why cancer develops will inform the development of novel and more personalized treatment approaches,” NIH reports.

Closer to home, we can be proud of the work of NJII’s Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center and Hackensack Meridian Health in pursuit of new and more effective treatments for cancer. So many patients are and will be counting on their life-saving research.

State-of-the-art medical care is making cancer treatment possible in many cases, allowing patients to return to their families and active lives. Every effort must be made to support those working on life-saving treatments.

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