State continues to attract pharma industry

//October 29, 2009

State continues to attract pharma industry

//October 29, 2009

Companies expected to bring more jobs to the areaIn recent months, several pharmaceutical companies have chosen New Jersey to set up shop, particularly for the development of cancer drugs, including some emerging blockbusters.

Some highlights:

• In late September, Leo Pharma, of Ballerup, Denmark, said it would base its U.S. headquarters in New Jersey.

• That same week, Westminster, Colo.-based Allos Therapeutics won regulatory approval for its lymphoma drug, Folotyn — significant because earlier this year, it picked Princeton for its commercial operations. In early October, the company went public with a $100 million offering.

• Seattle-based Dendreon said in August it is readying its Morris Plains facility to manufacture its billion-dollar prostate cancer drug, Provenge, by mid-2010. Dendreon plans to seek regulatory approval for the drug in November.

• Also in September, Hyderabad, India-based Aurobindo Pharmaceuticals sought a job-creation grant from the state Economic Development Authority to help it build its second manufacturing facility in New Jersey with about 50 jobs.

• In mid-October, Swedish medical technology company Getinge AB’s subsidiary Maquet Cardiovascular announced an expansion program in Wayne. It expects to create 350 jobs with EDA assistance.

Leo Pharma found New Jersey “attractive because of its concentration of pharmaceutical talent across all functions,” said John Koconis, president and chief executive of the firm’s U.S. subsidiary.

An MBA from Chicago’s Loyola University, Koconis will relocate in the next several weeks from the United Kingdom, where he heads Leo Pharma’s dermatology business. The company will chose between Princeton and Morristown in time for a January launch, he said.

Koconis expects his New Jersey operation to hire between 25 and 30 people for back-office functions, along with another 60 sales and marketing executives it plans to recruit nationally.

Dendreon likes New Jersey for three reasons, said Katherine Stueland, its vice president of corporate communications and investor relations. First, about one-fifth of the country’s population of men with advanced prostate cancer live in the metropolitan area, she said.

The number of flights in the area through John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia airports means “the majority of the patients across the country can be serviced through the New Jersey facility,” she said. Access to biotech and pharmaceutical talent is the third attraction.

The presence of airports is critical for Dendreon because of the unique treatment process for Provenge, said Dr. Neal Shore, a Myrtle Beach, S.C., urologist who has conducted the most clinical trials for it. Small quantities of blood drawn from a patient are shipped to the Morristown facility, where it is combined with Provenge and returned in two days to the patient’s doctor for “infusion” back into the body. This occurs three times over a 30-day period.

“Between Newark and LaGuardia, you can pretty much get 95 percent of the patient population with direct flights across the country,” Shore said.

New Jersey’s oncology appeal fits well with industry trends. Spending on cancer drugs increased 15.1 percent last year and accounted for 5 percent of overall drug spending in this year’s first half, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc., in Franklin Lakes. More than 800 drugs are in development to treat cancer, it said; meanwhile, oncology drugs will account for 9 percent of all prescription pharmaceutical spending growth between 2009 and 2011.

“Driven by medications that can cost tens of thousands of dollars per course of therapy and a deep pipeline of new targeted products with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy, worldwide sales of these medications are expected to reach $80 billion by 2012,” Medco said.

Drug development capabilities are available around the world, but what makes New Jersey special is its expertise in managing the “activities once you have a drug that is past preclinical processes,” all the way through commercialization, said Robert Rodriguez, president and chief operating officer of Cornerstone Pharmaceutical Inc., a Cranbury-based clinical stage company focused on developing drugs for cancer metabolism.

Others express those same strengths differently.

New Jersey packs an entrepreneurially driven work force that is “focused on execution and metrics, report cards and discipline,” said Jim Caruso, Allos’ chief commercial officer.

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