New Jersey Business — April 2014
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Smart Ventures
Anthony Bucci

Bio/Drug Discovery Lab Opens

Stevens facility provides new research resources.

As a component of the Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, the new Biotechnology and Drug Discovery Laboratory is not only poised to provide advancement in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research in the state, but to also provide a boost to the school’s educational resources.

Officially opened in January, the Biotechnology and Drug Discovery Laboratory will focus on research in areas of preclinical gene cloning and purification of therapeutic proteins, robotic drug screening and assay development. It will also serve as a research and development tool for “new internal drug discovery and biotech initiatives, collaborative initiatives, fee-for-service use, and educational and workforce training,” according to Dr. Peter Tolias, professor and director of the CHI.

Occupying approximately 2,000 square feet of renovated space at the CHI, the new laboratory was established in part by support from the New Jersey Department of Labor and a donation of equipment and supplies by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. Additionally, seven former Roche employees who ran an equivalent laboratory at the company joined Stevens as faculty and researchers.

One of those former employees is Dr. Alvin Stern, who has more than 35 years of protein purification experience and, most recently, was head of the Protein Biochemistry group at Roche. He is now a visiting professor in Stevens’ department of chemistry, chemical biology and biomedical engineering, as well as the director of the school’s new lab.

“New Jersey used to be known as sort of the ‘pill box’ of the United States, where just about every pharmaceutical company had its major clinical and discovery research located here,” Stern says. “But now, every one of those companies has either shut down completely or has downsized. So, when Roche was closing down in Nutley, my colleagues and I decided to branch out the functions that we achieved there.”

Stern says that when he and his colleagues were seeking a place to open this kind of laboratory, there was a big push from New York City to locate there. However, they ultimately decided to stay in New Jersey.

“We wanted to stay in the state because we are right in between many of our clients and collaborators,” he says. “Not only that, we get to work at Stevens while developing new programs where we can teach individuals to do what we do. Placing ourselves in an academic environment, while maintaining and utilizing the skill set of those in the area who work in this industry, was very important to us.

“There is certainly nothing in New Jersey that is this state-of-the-art in the biotechnology and drug discovery arena, and nothing of this size and scope across the entire country,” he concludes. “I am completely thrilled about what is happening here and look forward to expanding our collaboration base and conducting new drug discovery projects and research.”
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