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Archive for June, 2010

Recent NJ Conferences Promote Social Networking and Going Green

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
return to bio1 buzz

The Women in Science and Technology Workforce Summit and the Howe Institute of Technology Management Conference recently each held conferences to help businesses become better equipped to survive these uncertain economic times by providing tools and advice on how to restructure their usual approaches to the marketplace.  Dramatic changes in the industry which forced companies to downsize and merge resulted in massive layoffs.  The two conferences, titled Taking Initiative: Re-Tooling for an Economy that can Handle Curves and New Thinking for Today’s Leader at Stevens Institute of Technology, proposed the concept that despite economic adversity, we can still prepare ourselves to overcome and succeed.

The role of social networking for the present and future was highlighted at both events.   At the Women in Science and Technology Summit, it was agreed that LinkedIn is the best social networking option for professionals.  What idealizes Linkedin for professionals is the ability to visualize your network as well as receive recommendation letters from your network.  Attendees from conferences both agreed that Facebook and Twitter also have a role in the workplace, but should be used cautiously.  To find out more information on social networking and tips to improve your own accounts, go to http://awisnj.org/ and listen to their social networking webinar on July 15.

The program Opportunities for Sustainability for Scientist, held by the New Jersey chapter of the Association for Women in Science also reminds us that  during this unsure economic climate, we must not forget to direct ourselves to another important changing climate literally, our climate, the Earth.  For many years there has been a false concept that economic growth and environmental action are two opposing factors, when in fact they work synchronously.  Take for example a concept behind green chemistry, design synthesis and other processes to use less materials and energy.  This is a basic economic principle, that by reducing the input, you reduce the cost.  The ideas of sustainability and profitability are directly related, as shown by failing fishing, tourism and other industries in the Gulf of Mexico indicates.  While this program did address the serious reality that we as a society do not invest heavily enough in protecting our environment, it did share the positive work that some companies are doing, highlighting Johnson and Johnson and Walmart as positive contributors.  If you would more data from this program, please go to http://awisnj.org/.  To share your thoughts on how companies can go green, or how you yourself have contributed to the green revolution, please comment below.

Individualized Medicine: A Work in Progress

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
return to bio1 buzz

On May 26, 2010 academic and industry experts, from the U.S. and Sweden, gathered for a Symposium on Individualized Drug Therapy, organized and hosted by Dr. Allan Conney, Dr. Christopher Molloy, and Dr. Chung Yang, and sponsored by the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University. The symposium focused on understanding the current state of research, the roadblocks, and the need for advancement of current research and/or creation of new research areas in the development of personalized medicine with a focus on person-to-person differences in drug metabolism.

The need for personalized drug therapy can be perceived by the fact that “only 30-60% of patients respond appropriately to common drugs, while some (5-7%) show serious adverse drug reactions,” as pointed out by Dr. Magnus Ingelman-Sundberg, Professor and Head, Section of Pharmacogenetics, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Karolinska Institute, Sweden. Hence, the end of the Human Genome Project marks merely the beginning for personalized medicine, and the need to more thoroughly understand the differences in our genetic makeup and environmental factors (such as effects of diet, cigarette smoking, pollution, and lifestyle) that cause variations in drug response

Considering the variations in individuals’ response to a drug and the unknown intricacies of genetic and environmental factors, Dr. Richard Weinshilboum, Professor and Director, Division of Clinical Pharmacology at Mayo Medical School, outlined the goals for the development of personalized medicines as: avoiding Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR); maximizing drug efficacy; linking variations in genotype to variations in phenotypes; determining mechanisms responsible for that link; and translating that link to cure the corresponding disease.

Contributing to achieving the goals of personalized medicine is the new methodology for identifying small molecule metabolites (< 850 Da) that vary among individuals. Dr. Frank Gonzalez, Chief, Laboratory of Metabolism at the National Cancer Institute, NIH suggested that this research area, termed metabolomics, has the potential to complement traditional genomic approaches to provide a new understanding of individual disease mechanisms as well as identify unique biomarkers for drug metabolism, toxicity, and disease progression.

The need for a complete understanding of genetics and epigenetics has become more evident with different types of cancers and other less prevalent diseases, as highlighted by Dr. Lothar Finke, Vice President Oncology Translational Medicine at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Given the higher costs of healthcare and research, and comparatively fewer patients, such diseases require a more targeted research and cure. The audience advised addressing this problem by shifting our focus from equilibrium models to deconstructing diseases, for instance Gene Therapy.

Dr. William Evans, Director and CEO, St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, set forth an example of how systematic research breakthroughs in the understanding of genes associated with cancer drug action, resistance, and systemic toxicity have allowed clinicians to drive the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) from less than 10% to more than 85% over the past 40 years.

Dr. Bryan Dechairo, Senior Director, Development Head, Personalized Medicine R&D at Medco Health Solutions, Inc., highlighted that both methods, Randomized Control Trials and Real World Research are both useful for testing drug and diagnostic efficacy, but have their own drawbacks. Randomized Control Trials can only control for known confounders with entry criteria which in itself may be too stringent and therefore not reflect the majority of patients in the real world.  While Real World Research without a true placebo cannot control for biases like Hawthorne effect which may lead to false positives. So, as recommended by the audience, we need to adjust clinical trial design to accommodate novel biomarker discovery and establish more robust and predictive preclinical models, rather than solely relying on responsive and non-responsive patients.

To this, Dr. Susan Galbraith, Vice President, Clinical Development, Bristol Myers Squibb, elaborated on other challenges faced by the individualized drug therapy industry, ranging from difficulty in establishing molecular mechanism and biomarkers, and regulatory delays in approval of these biomarkers to the high costs of research and commercialization. She also asserted that the speed of evolution of biological understanding is not matched by the speed of diagnostic development and approval, thereby seeking timely support from our regulators in prompt approval of quality biomarkers. In addition, Dr. Nicholas C. Dracopoli, Vice President of Biomarkers at Centocor R&D, Johnson & Johnson, proposed that we should be equally responsible for developing high quality biomarkers with actionable clinical data for prompt approval.

These new challenges can be turned into opportunities by integrating pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries to facilitate R&D, suggested Dr. Mitchell Martin, Global Head, DNA Sciences at Roche. Dr. Martin also discussed both the promise and challenges posed by genome-scale technologies such as complete genome sequencing.  To unlock the power of these approaches will require further advances in our understanding of genome structure and sequence data, as well as better data management and analysis tools.

Putting WIRED Funds to Great Use: Raritan Valley Community College’s BioMan Partnership

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

With an eye on Bio-1′s goal of developing bioscience talent in Central New Jersey, Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC), together with industry partner ImClone Systems Incorporated proposed BioMan, a program to retool workers for real jobs in the high demand biotechnology industry.  The first round of this cerificate program, which includes 12 weeks of lab and class work and 12 weeks of on-the-job training at ImClone kicked off in November with a group of 16 displaced workers from a variety of industries.

The program, developed by Dr. Melanie Lenahan, head of the biotechnology program at RVCC, Julia West Johnson, Associate Dean, Corporate & Continuing Education at RVCC, and Nancy Jordan, Dean of Academic Program Development and Partnerships at RVCC with lots of input from industry is modeled after a similar successful program from the Bay Bio Institute in California which helped retrain displaced workers from the airline industry for jobs in biotech.

There is no need for participants to have a science background, and testimonials from the current group of participants say that the PhD level faculty are top notch.  The academic portion of the program typically has participants in the lab at RVCC from Monday through Thursday covering topics ranging from lab safety through biology and microbiology techniques.  Fridays are typically reserved for field trips to companies, but also will be used for additional training topics, such as excel and powerpoint training, understanding a regulated environment and job search techniques including interview skills and how to market themselves.

Upon completing the certificate program, they will interview with ImClone and other life sciences companies.  While there is no guarantee they will be hired, similar programs in other states have shown an 80% placement rate.  The salary potential is there for participants with a high school diploma to start as a manufacturing technician making $35,000 and those with college degrees have the potential to start at $40-50,000.

Click here to see the program featured on NJN News.

For more information about the program, please contact Program Coordinator Debbie Katz at 908-526-1200, ext. 8586 or dkatz@raritanval.edu.

This is just one great example of how community colleges can partner with industry to meet their workforce needs. If your organization would like to learn more about how programs can be customized to meet its specific needs, please feel free to contact Julia West Johnson at 908-526-1200, ext. 8319 or jwest@raritanval.edu.

Worker Flows of New Jersey Bioscience Firms: Hiring and Separation Patterns

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Worker Flows of New Jersey Bioscience Firms: Hiring and Separation PatternsHiring and Separation Patterns
Workforce and Economic Intelligence for the Bio-1 Region
Prepared for: Bio-1 WIRED Region
Prepared by: William Mabe, Ph.D. and Leela Hebbar, Ph.D.
John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Executive Summary
Importance of Examining Hiring and Separation Patterns
Attracting and retaining qualified personnel are critical to the success of any
organization. This is especially true in the bioscience industry where firm success
depends so heavily on human capital. A clear understanding of hiring
patterns can provide valuable information on the industries in which new hires
previously worked. The data also allow researchers to examine a common assertion
in economics that small businesses are the engine of job creation, and
to learn whether small-, medium-, or large-sized businesses are doing significant
amounts of hiring.
An understanding of worker separation from firms is also important. Any time a
worker leaves (separates from) a firm — whether because of retirement, termination,
or job switching — costs are imposed upon the firm. The primary cost
is a loss of productivity because firms lose the skills of exiting employees and
must train new hires until they become skilled enough to function as productive
workers. Job search and hiring costs, in the form of expenses for placement
agencies and signing bonuses for new hires, can also be significant.
By looking at the net job creation rate (hires minus separations), this report
provides detailed information on the extent to which the bioscience industry is
adding or subtracting employees over time.
Data and Approach
This report uses data from the New Jersey Unemployment Insurance (UI) Wage
Record system to study the issues identified above. The UI wage data are
especially useful for conducting these analyses because they offer detailed
information on the earnings of nearly everyone employed in the state of New
December 2009
Workforce Report
2
Worker Flows at New Jersey Bioscience Firms
Jersey. The full impact of the Great Recession
of 2008-2009 on the bioscience
industry is not clear, however, due to the
data lag that limited available employment
figures to those reported through
the third quarter of 2008.
Given this data constraint, researchers
from the John J. Heldrich Center
for Workforce Development opted to
pursue two strategies. First, researchers
sought to learn whether hiring, separations,
and net job creation were different
in a recession year than they were in
a growth year. The researchers therefore
conducted separate analyses for 2001,
when the economy endured a recession
between March and December,
and 2004, when the economy grew
at a rate of 3.6% (National Bureau of
Economic Research and the Economic
Report of the President, 2005). The
study’s findings are consistent across the
two years, though there is, of course, no
guarantee that they would still hold for
today. The consistency of the findings
across a year of economic growth and
a year of recession, however, suggest
that they are robust to varying economic
conditions.
In addition to the current analysis, the
Heldrich Center will conduct these analyses
again to test whether the findings
hold when the UI wage data for the last
quarter of 2008 and the first two quarters
of 2009 become available.
Beyond measuring hiring and separation
rates in the bioscience industry
over time, the Heldrich Center is also
using the data to compare hiring and
separation rates in the bioscience
industry to those in other industries. This
cross-industry comparison is critical to
getting a sense of whether one might
reasonably label a hiring rate as “low”
or “high.” Therefore, in the analyses that
follow, comparisons to other industries
will be prominent in the text, figures, and
tables.
Finding #1. New Jersey’s bioscience
firms have more stable employment
than other industries. These companies
hire new workers at a lower rate than
other industries, which is at least partially
driven by the industry’s lower-thanaverage
rate of employees leaving the
company.

Benchmarking the Central/Northern New Jersey Bioscience Cluster to Other U.S. Regions

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Benchmarking the Central/Northern New Jersey Bioscience Cluster to Other U.S. RegionsBioscience Cluster to Other U.S. Regions
Workforce and Economic Intelligence for the Bio-1 Region
Prepared for: Bio-1 WIRED Region
Prepared by: Paul Gottlieb, Ph.D., Qianqi Shen, and Aaron Fichtner, Ph.D.
Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics and
John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers,
The State University of New Jersey
Executive Summary
December 2009
Workforce Report
This report compares the bioscience industry in central and northern New Jersey to 10
other regions of the nation. Six of these comparison regions were selected because of
the magnitude of their bioscience employment, while the remaining four are Workforce
Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) regions focusing their workforce
development efforts on the biosciences. The report examines key economic indicators,
including bioscience employment and employment trends, industry concentration, education,
and investments in research and development. The 10 comparison regions are:
Boston (MA), Chicago (IL), Delaware Valley (PA, NJ, DE), Grand Rapids (MI), Indianapolis
(IN), Kansas City (MO), the Research Triangle (NC), Rochester (NY), San Diego (CA), and
San Francisco (CA).
The bioscience industry is defined to include the following sub-sectors: pharmaceuticals;
medical devices and equipment; physical, engineering, and biological research; other
bio-related manufacturing; and laboratories.
Central/northern New Jersey includes the five counties of the Bio-1 region (Hunterdon,
Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset) and five additional counties with significant
biosciences employment (Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Union).
Key Findings

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