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CCIT Tenants Benefit from Guidance of Advisory Board

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Under the direction of Co-Chairs John Pennett (left) and Dr. K. Stephen Suh (right), the CCIT Advisory Board offer guidance to tenant companies on a wide range of topics.

TRENTON (December 10, 2015) – As one of the more significant incubation facilities in the nation dedicated to life sciences and biotechnology companies, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) has evolved into a hub of activity for the Garden State’s burgeoning life sciences industry.

From hosting events such as New Jersey Founders & Funders, which introduces startup companies to angel and venture investors, to Lunch and Learn presentations that bring in industry experts to discuss topics relevant to emerging companies, CCIT offers something to each of its tenants and to the life sciences community at large. Ideally situated in the heart of the State’s research corridor between Rutgers and Princeton universities, CCIT offers the most wet labs of any incubator in New Jersey.

Launched earlier this year, the incubator’s Executive-in-Residence Program brings life sciences professionals to CCIT to mentor and coach tenant companies through a series of weekly office hours.

CCIT, currently home to 22 companies, also has an active advisory board from which tenants can seek guidance on a wide range of topics. The CCIT Advisory Board includes professionals from the many types of organizations that are involved with growing companies, such as the ones housed at CCIT. Accountants, lawyers, trade organizations, large corporations, universities, consultants, hospitals, and even CCIT graduates, all have seats on the Board.

“Under the leadership of co-chairs John Pennett and Stephen Suh, the CCIT Advisory Board provides resources and guidance that are vital to helping our State’s innovation ecosystem flourish,” EDA Chief Executive Officer Melissa Orsen said.

“The Board is structured in such a way that its members address questions and issues that arise from the incubator’s tenants,” Pennett explained. “It also serves to integrate CCIT into the larger New Jersey technology community through the extended network the Board represents.”

Pennett, of Watchung, is the Partner-in-Charge of the Life Sciences Group and Technology Group at the international accounting firm EisnerAmper. For more than 20 years of his 30-year career in accounting, Pennett has focused on life sciences clients. He is a proponent of cultivating New Jersey’s Life Sciences ecosystem and spends a portion of his time mentoring and advising entrepreneurs. In addition to leading the CCIT Advisory Board, Pennett serves as the co-chair of BioNJ’s Chief Financial Officer Committee and is on the Accounting Advisory Board of the Rutgers University School of Business, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Pennett is the publisher of Catalyst, a magazine focused solely on issues related to life sciences and pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. K. Stephen Suh, Ph.D., of Hackensack, is the director of the Genomics Program at the John Theurer Cancer Center of Hackensack University Medical Center, where he manages the Center’s Tissue Repository and the cancer research program for multiple human cancer types. The Tissue Bank stores tissue, blood, or bone marrow samples that have been donated by patients who have undergone biopsies, surgery, or other clinical procedures. Scientists then use these samples to analyze and study cancer cells to individualize medical treatments for patients. Through his membership in several national organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research and the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Suh keeps CCIT connected to the local and national scientific and clinical community. After earning a Master’s Degree and Doctorate Degree in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas, Dr. Suh completed his Post-Doctoral Fellowship and Research Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

@NJEDATech spoke with Pennett and Dr. Suh about the CCIT Advisory Board and their vision for its future:

Why did you decide to join the CCIT Advisory Board?
Pennett: As a representative of EisnerAmper, and personally, I believe it is important to be a contributing member of the biotech community and to give back to that community. Sharing information I have learned with the community is always one of the most enjoyable and valuable parts of my job. CCIT was always considered the most visible biotechnology facility in the state, and  the fact that the life sciences community, and the EDA, came to me with the opportunity to support the community in a leadership capacity is a great honor.

Suh: I joined the Board because I wanted to share knowledge I accumulated during my time at the National Cancer Institute and clinical perspectives I gained from the medical center. Many scientists ‘build’ products without closely interacting with end users. I wanted to provide share of these insights when interacting with tenants.

How has CCIT evolved during your tenure on the Advisory Board?
Pennett: CCIT has grown tremendously over the past few years. The primary impact has been on the external awareness of CCIT, its programs and support systems. For many years, the organization was focused only on its internal customers and waited for potential customers to contact them. Now CCIT has the Founders & Funders and Executives-in–Residence programs, and provides many other resources to support the entrepreneurial community. There is not a life sciences event in State that does not have CCIT representation.

Suh: There is more interaction and networking between the tenants than when I joined the Board. This enables tenants to become more self-sufficient and productive entities after they graduate. Forming committees to help tenants, the Lunch and Learn series and the Executives-in-Residence Program are all examples of the interactive dynamic between tenants and the Advisory Board.

Where do you see CCIT five years from now?
Pennett: There is currently a strong focus on entrepreneurship, and incubators globally are growing at an incredibly rapid pace. With the talent and resources available in NJ, I see CCIT continuing to lead the early-stage life science community with its top-shelf facility, and access to experts and support systems.

Suh: CCIT will define better innovation. This is a challenge since the scientific landscape is changing very quickly and technologies are improving rapidly. The nurturing and advising incubators, such as CCIT, are becoming more complex and advisory members will be working ever more closely to help clients.

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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