Health Care Institute of New Jersey Honors Joachim Kohn for His Contributions to Life Sciences

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Dr. Joachim Kohn, PhD., Director of the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials at Rutgers University, was honored by the Health Care Institute of New Jersey (HINJ) for his contributions to life sciences research. The award was presented on October 9, 2014 at HINJ’s Life Sciences Celebration held at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, NJ.

Congressman Rush Holt (l) and Joachim Kohn (r)

The HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ) honored two New Jersey leaders for their contributions in public service and life sciences research. Those recognized were Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) and Joachim Kohn, Ph.D., FBSE, Director, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, and Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Presiding over the event, Craig Bleifer, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. and Chair of HINJ’s Board of Trustees, said, “There is much to celebrate in New Jersey’s life sciences community. HINJ is delighted to recognize the achievements of this distinguished group, who, like our HINJ member companies, have demonstrated a sustained commitment across a broad spectrum of activities to improving the human condition.”

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Kohn addressed the question of whether we have unrealistic expectations about the speed of translational research, or whether there is a real problem in this nation in translating research into clinically useful products. He mentioned as an example the fact that the basic invention of artificial human skin was first made at MIT in 1976 and that it took 20 years before this invention became an FDA approved product in 1996. In the meantime, scores of burn patients had no viable treatment options for skin regeneration. Kohn said “We have a right to be impatient when it comes to translation of medical products to the market place. Everyday delayed affects the life and well being of patients. While safety is clearly of paramount importance, is it really unavoidable that it would take one hundred million dollars to get a new drug approved or in excess of 15 years to translate a laboratory breakthrough into a medical product? I think that it should be possible to accelerate the rate of translation and reduce the cost burden of developing new medical products without sacrificing either safety or efficacy.”

Joachim Kohn, PhD, is a research entrepreneur, a multi-disciplinary translational scientist, and a national leader in the development of new biomaterials for medical applications and drug delivery. He is a member of the National Academy of Inventors. In 1997, Kohn founded the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, which has grown into a collaborative network spanning 25 institutions and 40 laboratories. As a translational scientist, Kohn has 54 issued US Patents on novel biomaterials and seven companies have licensed his technologies. He has raised about $100 million in research funding at Rutgers and helped four licensees to raise over $200 million in private capital. He is mostly known for his seminal work on "pseudo-poly(amino acid)s"- a new class of polymers that combine the non-toxicity of individual amino acids with the strength and processability of high-quality engineering plastics. Medical devices using these materials have been implanted in more than 50,000 patients.

The New Jersey Center for Biomaterials (NJCBM) was founded in 1997. Based at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, the center spans academia, industry and government. Staffed by biomaterial scientists, the Center works toward the goal to improve health care and quality of life by developing advanced biomedical products for tissue repair and replacement as well as the delivery of pharmaceutical agents. The Center’s technologies have been translated into clinical and pre-clinical products including surgical meshes, cardiovascular stents, bone regeneration scaffolds, and ocular drug delivery systems.

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John Bushby