In what felt like a return to normalcy, last Thursday evening at the Hilton East Brunswick at its 29th Annual Dinner Meeting & Innovation Celebration, BioNJ shined a spotlight on the unprecedented medical innovation that has emerged from the Garden State during the pandemic.
“It’s hard to believe that it has been more than two years since our last in-person Annual Dinner Meeting on Feb. 4, 2020,” said BioNJ CEO and President Debbie Hart. “To say the last two years have been tumultuous is an understatement. Despite the tumult, with 70 new FDA drug approvals coming from companies with a footprint in New Jersey over the last two years – account for 40% of ALL new approvals – our great state continued to lead the way in helping patients live longer, better lives. We were pleased to celebrate their innovation in this way.”
The annual event, which brought out a who’s who in New Jersey’s life sciences community, was dedicated to “Patients…Because they just can’t wait.”
The dinner began with the presentation of the Innovator Awards to 43 companies for the 70 U.S. Food & Drug Administration drug approvals that Hart alluded to. Additionally, the Fourth Annual Heart of BioNJ Awards were presented to New Jersey COVID-19 heroes.
The main event of the evening was the presentation of the 2022 Annual Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli for her work throughout the pandemic.
“I am pleased to present this year’s award to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli,” said BioNJ Board Member Sol Barer, Ph.D., former chairman & CEO at Celgene Corp. and chairman of the board, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Jersey, Judy used her decades of experience in nursing, hospital administration and public health to implement never-before-used systems in our hospitals to ensure patients received the care they needed while protecting our doctors, nurses and hospital staff who were placing their own lives in jeopardy to save lives of their fellow neighbors.
“And it was Judy’s innovative mind that ensured that procedures were in place to get as many New Jerseyans vaccinated as possible as soon as the first COVID-19 vaccine was made available … an unprecedented innovation in itself,” Barer added. “A driven and passionate person, our honoree’s core mission is to ‘help people in New Jersey live long, healthy lives.’ And, she has done … just that!”
“Judy Persichilli was the right person at the right time and is so deserving of this award,” said Hart.
Persichilli spoke about the darkest times of the pandemic. And while she was honored to receive the award, she reiterated that there is still work to do.
“We have promises to keep and miles to go, but we all know that without vision, people perish. Without innovation, there is not progress. Without leadership, there is no success,” said Persichilli.
“The legacy for all of you who have participated in this great pandemic of 2020-2022 is that through your work, you are not just living through history, you are making history. You all brought hope for a future that is better than the present. I, for one, will be forever grateful to all of you.”