The Greater Philadelphia Region’s Place at the Forefront of Cell and Gene Therapy and Connected Health Research and Treatment To Be Showcased During BIO 2019 in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, May 30, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — As Philadelphia prepares to welcome 16,000 life sciences professionals from 67 countries for the 2019 BIO International Convention next week, members of the CEO Council for Growth and Select Greater Philadelphia, both councils of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, are organizing activities and events to showcase the tri-state region’s leadership role in cell and gene therapy, gene editing, and connected health research, commercialization and treatment.  A regional host committee, comprised of academic, business and civic organizations from the 11-county region of Northern Delaware, Southern New Jersey, and Southeastern Pennsylvania, has arranged tours and presentations for global biotech and pharma leaders attending the June 3-6 meeting that is set to take place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  They plan to share the story that, when it comes to talent, research and results in the industry, Greater Philadelphia is a leading global epicenter.

This is where, more than two decades ago, early gene therapy research was launched at the University of Pennsylvania by James M. Wilson, MD, PhD.  It’s also home to the collaboration between Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Medicine that developed CAR T-cell cancer treatment therapy.

Today, the science, research and development in cell and gene therapy that has originated from this region have resulted in four U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals in just the past 21 months.  These include: the first-FDA approved personalized cellular therapy for cancer (Kymriah™ by Novartis Pharamceuticals for advanced leukemia, August 2017); the first FDA-approved gene therapy (LUXTURNA™ by Spark Therapeutics for congenital blindness, December 2017); and a second approval of Kymriah™ by Novartis (for relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, May 2018).  In addition, Penn Medicine played a role in the science, research and development that led to the FDA approval of a gene therapy known as Zolgensma for spinal muscle atrophy, a rare genetic disease (approved on May 24, 2019).  These breakthroughs are creating new pathways to cures for diseases, and improving and saving lives. 

As of 2019, the region is home to more than 30 cell and gene therapy companies.  Collectively, these start-ups have raised more than $1 billion in invested capital, have created more than 3,000 jobs, and continue to bring capital, jobs and talent to the region.  Among the new start-up companies launched from area research institutions and headquartered in Philadelphia is Spark Therapeutics, Inc., which recently entered into a definite merger agreement with Roche for $4.8 billion, and two University of Pennsylvania spinoff companies, Passage Bio and Tmunity Therapeutics.  In addition, established companies such as Amicus Therapeutics and Verve Therapeutics are opening new research facilities in the Greater Philadelphia region to be closer to the epicenter of this work and conduct research collaborations with local university-based experts. 

“As the host of this important meeting, the Greater Philadelphia region has an opportunity to tell the world what we have to offer — a livable and prosperous region that is improving the world’s health through research, talent and results,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, CEO of Independence Health Group, and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.  “BIO attendees will tour facilities and hear presentations from the researchers doing this groundbreaking work and the companies bringing these discoveries to market.  This meeting could not have happened at a better time.  This is Greater Philadelphia’s moment.”

Activities include an invitation-only 500-attendee showcase featuring presentations and demonstrations from area industry leaders on Monday, June 3, at the just-opened Comcast Technology Center, and a tri-state sponsored reception on the show floor at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Tuesday, June 4, collaboratively presented by Life Sciences Pennsylvania, BIONJ and Delaware BIO.  Tours of research facilities and labs are also scheduled, including one at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s soon-to-open Clinical Vector Core, which will produce clinical-grade biotechnology tools, known as vectors, to deliver cell and gene therapy for difficult-to-treat diseases; the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing, a new state-of-the-art training facility in Spring House, Pa.; Incyte’s new Delaware headquarters; and a new biobank in Southern New Jersey.

“The Greater Philadelphia region is the original home of cell and gene therapy.  This is where the field started two decades ago, where it was nurtured and where it continues to rapidly grow.  We want BIO 2019 attendees to know that it’s all here,” Hilferty said.

In addition to telling the story of the researchers and companies in the region who were the first to bring cell and gene therapies to patients, industry leaders will tout the Greater Philadelphia region’s high concentration and diversity of research institutions, its ease of collaboration, access to capital, a pipeline of untapped opportunities and a desirable quality of life.  That includes an almost 500 percent increase in venture capital funding in the Greater Philadelphia region in the past 18 months (Source: CBRE).

Efforts will also promote ways in which the Greater Philadelphia region is taking the lead in connected health technologies that will improve patients’ lives, such as through Quil, a patient-centered technology and communications platform that is a joint venture of Independence Blue Cross and Comcast; the Perelman School of Medicine’s Center for Digital Health; Christiana Care’s Carelink CareNow; Jefferson Health’s JeffConnect®; and HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which links electronic medical records systems across hospital systems, healthcare insurers and practice offices.

Another topic of discussion will be the region’s proven success in attracting new talent, including students seeking to work with distinguished researchers such as Penn Medicine’s Dr. Jean Bennett, Dr. Carl June, and Dr. Jim Wilson, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Stephan Grupp and Dr. Hakon Hakonarson, among others.

Already, 45,000 people are employed in the life sciences industry in Greater Philadelphia (Source: CBRE), including 4,900 key scientists in life sciences, biomedical sciences and chemistry in Greater Philadelphia (CBRE).  And, 54% of new graduates are choosing to stay in the region, a number which exceeds many other metropolitan areas such as Boston.  (Source: Campus Philly)

“The next generation of talent in the life sciences and in connected health are being drawn to Greater Philadelphia to study, live and work in our renowned universities, research laboratories, start-ups and technology companies,” Hilferty said.  “It is our job to continue to grow the industry.  BIO 2019 is a great opportunity to do that, and we’re here to maximize that opportunity.”

About The CEO Council for Growth: The CEO Council for Growth, a council of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, leads our region forward by envisioning a stronger, more competitive community, convening decision makers, taking action, and advocating for policies and practices that strengthen our regional economy. This team of more than 60 devoted business, higher education, and civic leaders reaches across our 11-county Greater Philadelphia community. They are engaged advocates who are committed to innovation in business, improving regional mobility, and fostering talent as key opportunities that define our competitive advantage and drive economic growth.  For more information, visit

About Select Greater Philadelphia: Select Greater Philadelphia (Select), a council of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, is the business attraction organization for northern Delaware, southern New Jersey, and southeastern Pennsylvania. Select highlights Greater Philadelphia’s unique business assets to national and global audiences with the ultimate goal of growing the economic vibrancy of our collective community through attracting new businesses and new jobs to our 11-county region. Select assists companies interested in locating in Greater Philadelphia by providing resources, detailed information, and connections. Learn more at

About Greater Philadelphia’s Cell and Gene Therapy, Gene Editing, and Connected Health Initiative: The Chamber, through its CEO Council for Growth, along with collaborating institutions, organizations and companies, has launched a multi-year initiative to leverage and promote Greater Philadelphia’s cell and gene therapy, gene editing, and connected health sectors.  The objective of the initiative is to strengthen the region’s innovation economy through efforts including shared storytelling that builds awareness of the region’s assets, providing resources to start-up and scaling companies, assessing the talent needs of the sectors, and supporting the development of critical infrastructure for the sector’s growth.  The initiative is supported by 11 partner companies, institutions and universities in the Greater Philadelphia region.  For more information, visit

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SOURCE CEO Council for Growth; Select Greater Philadelphia Council

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