Fall 2017 Edition
Judith Sheft - New Jersey Institute of TechnologySpotlight
Tell us about your professional journey.
I started my career at Bell Labs in Naperville, Illinois working on traffic engineering methodologies for telecommunications switching systems. The telecoms wanted to properly size their systems so calls would go through during peak load periods such as Mother’s Day or Christmas. I worked on mathematical algorithms using extreme value statistics, the same approach used for building dams to withstand the 1000-year flood to solve that problem. From there I moved into the semiconductor division of Western Electric (what ultimately became spun off as Agere) to work on strategic alliances and partnerships with both small tech start ups and large international partners and management of intellectual property. I then had the opportunity to move to the academic sector at NJIT and was initially focused on IP management and technology commercialization – leveraging skills I developed at AT&T. That role evolved so that I am now part of the NJII organization where I focus on regional economic development and technology commercialization having responsibilities for management of the high technology and life sciences business accelerator/incubator, the Enterprise Development Center, the HealthIT Connections entrepreneurial cluster development program and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center. I am on the Board of Advisors to the NJIT Murray Women’s Center and mentor students and faculty that are pursing entrepreneurship. Since 2007 I have been a member of the NJ – Israel Commission and I serve on the Board of the New Jersey Entrepreneurs Network, Greater Newark Enterprise Corporation, Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation and Einstein’s Alley.
What did the landscape of the NJ tech ecosystem and life sciences look like when you started? What does it look like today? NJ’s tech and life sciences eco-system was fragmented with few people working on their own startups. NJ was very much a big company state and all the big companies were self sufficient (or thought they could operate that way). They were very insular – not open to ideas from other places. NIH was the watch word of the day and that stood for Not Invented Here. At the time the overall culture was not very entrepreneurial. It was said that in NJ if a tech person lost their job they would start sending out resumes, while if that same person lost their job in Silicon Valley they’d start sending out business plans and investor presentations. I am happy to say that now the entrepreneurial culture and eco-system in NJ has evolved to be collaborative [corneroffice] FALL 2017 5 WWW.NJTC.ORG and thriving. In fact, we are seeing entrepreneurs move businesses to NJ because of the excellent opportunities and resources in the state around the various developing key industry clusters.
What accomplishments are you most proud of at your tenure at NJIT? I am most proud of the work I have done supporting diversity and inclusion of underrepresented minorities and women in the tech and life sciences entrepreneurial community. Studies by Institute for a Competitive Inner City and the Kaufman Foundation note that women and minority entrepreneurs face greater challenges in the areas of networking, education and access to capital. In addition, there is a distinctive lack of role models as only 5% of tech companies are led by female CEOs, and blacks and Hispanics represent a minority of the tech/STEM workforce. I have been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion at the NJIT EDC tech and life sciences incubator. Approximately 35% of the client companies are women or minority led – well above the national averages. Programs that have been developed at the EDC help entrepreneurs accelerate the successful development of early stage and start up companies. These programs and connections to the broader NJ/ NY regional entrepreneurial eco-system help combat the challenges typically faced by women and minority led entrepreneurs addressing issues of size, scale and capabilities. The EDC has connections to over 100 investors and various resource groups such as New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC), New Jersey Entrepreneurs Network (NJEN), and various funding groups including the NJIT Highlander Angel Network. The social connections that I have developed with all these groups help women and minority entrepreneurs gain access to critical resources. Many of the women and minority entrepreneurs have gone on to win funding awards from the NJEDA, American Express Make Mine a Million, NJTC Venture Awards and other honors.
What do you see as the biggest challenges you see across the community? Academic side/Industry side – challenges facing the state?
- Educating technology students
Another challenge is creating the open innovation eco-system and making it easy for companies of all sizes to find and access external resources and capabilities. Frequently we hear about the challenges of figuring out how to work with a university partner. The motivations and incentives on both sides are different, so can they work together? The answer is yes. NJ universities are open for business. NJII – the New Jersey Innovation Institute @ NJIT is an example of a unique approach to flip the traditional academic /industry model. At NJII we want to listen first to customer’s challenges and then see how we can find the capabilities to solve those challenges. We are set up along both industry verticals and core capabilities to leverage strength across NJ to address industry needs.
What can the government do both local and national, to help the innovation ecosystem thrive? The role of government is to act as facilitator and catalyst and get others from the private sector to get engaged. There are many important players in the eco-system and it critical for government to help remove barriers and red tape. Government funding programs such as the federal SBIR and STTR can be important sources of early funding for tech based start ups. Government should not be in the business of trying to pick winners or losers but should help create the conditions where firms can grow successfully. It is important to help companies get started and it is even more important to help them develop strong roots to thrive successfully into the future.
What do you want to be remembered by? There are two quotes that are favorites of mine. One is an African saying: “To go fast go alone - to go far go together.” And the other is a Zen Proverb – “When you reach the top of the mountain keep climbing.” I want to be remembered as someone that helped entrepreneurs go far together by connecting them with the resources and partners that they needed to accelerate their growth. One of our current programs for working with entrepreneurs in the Health IT space is called HealthIT Connections. The Connections part of the title is a very deliberate part of what the program is all about. Yes, we provide six peer group learning sessions and one-on-one coaching, but the real strength of the program is the connections that get made between cohort members and with others in the health IT eco-system - providers and payers. I also want to be remembered as someone that helped others reach beyond their comfort zones to achieve more then they thought possible – to go beyond the top of the mountain.
New Jersey is as Good for Amazon as Amazon is for New JerseyPluggedin
When Amazon considers New Jersey, it will already find talent, location, and play
Amazon should choose New Jersey for its vaunted HQ2. In the end, we won’t offer the biggest package of incentives or the lowest cost of doing business. But Amazon should (and likely will) come for three reasons: talent, location, and play. More than 500,000 of the planet’s smartest tech professionals already live in our region. We are blessed with the richest collection of educated immigrants and their offspring: remarkably successfully people who have made this state exceptionally rich, resilient, and sticky. These talented professionals — along with our homegrown talent, educated in some of the nation’s best K-12 schools and universities — will help Amazon continue to grow and transform new industries. What’s more: East Coast talent is simply more loyal and less likely to change jobs every oneto-two years for the next best offer — and that’s a refreshing bonus for West Coast tech giants.
Location We already offer quick access to New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. via public transportation. Soon, smart-city innovations and ridesharing will make access throughout our state and region even easier. Furthermore, our collective resiliency, particularly after Sandy, ensure that we and our infrastructure are better prepared than most states for future storms. With access to four international airports, we offer uniquely direct connections to the rest of the planet. All this accessibility saves time, today’s most valuable commodity, especially for the tens of thousands of well-paid, educated workers Amazon’s new headquarters will employ. Of course, Amazon already has a huge footprint in New Jersey, from its sprawling warehouses to the headquarters of Audible, Amazon’s pioneering, exceptionally successful subsidiary. (I expect Audible founder and CEO Don Katz to be our greatest advocate to Jeff Bezos, but alumni and friends from his alma mater, Princeton University, will be telling New Jersey’s story, too.) Whether Amazon chooses a city, a suburban area, or a combination of both, the state offers abundant housing in all price ranges. And our suburbs are again becoming a key strength, with migration taking off as millennials raise kids and want more space to spread out, walk their dogs, and enjoy long runs and bike rides. Which brings us to…
Play With all the culture and nature throughout the region, Amazon workers will have the best of all worlds. They’ll enjoy easy access to the nation’s — and world’s — great cities, with a multitude of wonderful opportunities for intellectual stimulation, experience, and enrichment. They’ll appreciate our tremendous natural diversity, the opportunities our beautiful mountains, plains, and beaches provide to disconnect, recharge, and revitalize. And they will especially appreciate our human diversity, how this state and region embraces all who come here. Our robust technology community will engage them across the state at hubs and hot spots the Tech Council continues to nurture (Jersey Tech Week in the fall and Jersey Innovation Week in the spring highlight the dynamic energy of our communities).
Making New Jersey even better When Amazon considers New Jersey, it will already find talent, location, and play. Beyond additional financial incentives, how can we make New Jersey even more attractive to them — and to all other technology companies seeking a great place to grow? Next to our people and educational systems, infrastructure may be our greatest asset. Working with the federal government, we need to revitalize it for the next generation. We need to be aggressive — indeed visionary — in making large infrastructure investments that will pay enormous dividends in the short and long term. New Jersey also needs to act as a platform for incubating and scaling new technologies. If we commit to it, there’s no reason why we can’t become the East Coast hotbed of innovation for autonomous vehicles, drones, smart cities, and the Internet of Things. Continued investments in K-16 are needed, to add seats at universities and prevent a brain drain, and to ensure that robust research initiatives continue, many of them supported by federal grants. Of course, our K-12 schools need more resources to remain top-of-class in the nation and provide a robust pipeline of skilled workers for all types of jobs. With the right leadership, we can extend New Jersey’s advantage as the preferred location of technology and life-science companies. Let’s welcome Amazon, but let’s also look beyond one big fish to the entire technology ecosystem. Let’s attract Amazon, but let’s also position ourselves to attract the next Amazon, and the all-important small-to-mid-size growth companies that are our most vital job creators.
Inspiring the Next Generation of Health Care InnovatorsEducation Highlight
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School aims to educate, collaborate and accelerate medical commercial ventures.
John Dutton learned his first lesson in entrepreneurship the hard way.
“I had a great idea for a medical product, a patent and a business plan – and still I got scooped,” says Dutton, who was 22 and a researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia when he watched another company make good with a variation of his invention.
The following year, as a first-year student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dutton and two classmates, Steven Shterenberg and Matthew Michel, launched Rutgers Biomedical Entrepreneurial Network (BEN). Their goal: to give medical students the tools they need to develop innovative solutions in the clinic and cultivate an entrepreneurial culture at Rutgers.
“I wanted to help educate others interested in getting their ideas to market so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did, to give them the best chance of success in solving the problems in the health care arena,” says Dutton, a fourth-year RWJMS student and co-developer of an information-guided patient discharge platform known as Suretify, his second company.
Today BEN, in its fourth year, is going strong. Each month 20 to 30 RWJMS student-members come together for inspirational talks and workshops centered on biomedical and health care innovation and entrepreneurship. Medical students gain hard skills such as how to raise money, enter pitch competitions and network with potential collaborators.
“Our primary goal is to educate medical students on how to be health care disruptors,” says BEN’s 2017 co-president Gregg Khodorov, who received his MBA at Rutgers and interned at Pfizer before beginning medical school at RWJMS in 2016. “Medical students today recognize that times are changing and that innovation is the key to making a difference on a grand scale in health care, especially in this new era of digital medicine.”
Last year, Khodorov and BEN’s 2017 copresident Julia Tartaglia hosted an inaugural BEN Health Innovation Summit, which drew an audience of 130 attendees – not only physicians and medical students, but participants from Rutgers Business School, Rutgers’ Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and, Rutgers’ School of Engineering, as well as industry leaders in the community.
The summit, scheduled this year in February at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, also serves as a networking event for all health care stakeholders in the greater New Jersey area.
“As medical students, we have little contact with engineers, programs and industry professionals with whom we could work to innovate within health care. The BEN summit serves to not only inspire the next generation of physician entrepreneurs, but to also break down industry silos by facilitating interactions among physicians, technologists, engineers and businesspeople,” says Tartaglia, who, while at Harvard College, founded the Scientista Foundation, a national organization that empowers pre-professional women in STEM.
One of BEN’s noteworthy successes is its collaboration with Robert Wood Johnson Medical School faculty and Rutgers School of Engineering to create a Distinction Program in Medical Innovation and Entrepreneurship (DiMIE). The program, launched in 2016, is a distinction track in which students at RWJMS develop their ideas with the goal of maturing an innovation toward commercialization by the end of their fourth year.
Entering its second year with 14 students, the four-year program begins with exposure to BEN seminars and, in year two, students partner with clinicians to develop their ideas toward commercialization. By year four, they are expected to create a formal business plan; file a patent; and submit grant proposals for seed funding.
“At the heart of the program is the coming together of diverse perspectives and expertise,” says Susan Engelhardt, executive director of Rutgers’ Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Center for Innovative Ventures of Emerging Technologies (CIVET), who codirects the program. “Students bring fresh ideas to patient care and clinical mentors champion the innovation’s integration into the clinical environment.”
Engelhardt, along with DiMIE’s clinical cofounder Tomer Davidov, associate professor of surgery at RWJMS, help facilitate partnerships with other Rutgers entities, such as the intellectual property law clinic at Rutgers Law School, which assists students with the patenting process, and Rutgers Business School and School of Engineering, which provide support in developing business plans and prototypes.
“Interest and enthusiasm across the university is palpable, but why wouldn’t it be? These students are creative, motivated and help us toward closing gaps in patient care,” Davidov says.
Current DiMIE student innovations run the gamut from applications, such as Suretify’s enhanced discharge process, to systems that detect bioterrorism-induced outbreaks of medical conditions, to medical devices that administer targeted oncology therapeutics.
Talk about your impressive background
I completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center then joined Hackensack University Medical Center in 1989. Since then, we’ve built our Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) program into a national leader, completing more than 6,000 procedures and opening New Jersey’s only pediatric BMT center. The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center is the largest in the tri-state area, performing well over 400 transplants annually – in addition to our new BMT program which opened at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2014. Our patients also have access to more than 800 clinical trials, including those with our partners Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Georgetown University. I am also a professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Georgetown University
How did you come to be head of innovation at Hackensack Meridian Health? What is the most exciting aspect of this job?
Innovation is in our DNA at Hackensack Meridian Health – it is as fundamental to our mission as providing the highest quality of care. The most exciting aspect of this job is saving lives. Our cancer center is one of the few sites that will offer a new treatment for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Known as CAR T-cell therapy, it involves removing immune cells from a patient then engineering them to seek out and destroy cancer. We also plan to launch the Multiple Myeloma Institute on the campus of the medical school we will open with Seton Hall University next year.
When you look at the landscape of technology and health care innovation, what do you see?
Advances in technology help fuel innovation. Here’s a great example: We launched the Agile Strategies Lab with a terrific partner – the New Jersey Innovation Institute and Judith Sheft, a key leader at NJII. We have developed a Shark Tank-like program where companies and entrepreneurs pitch ways to improve health care. Ideas that are progressing? A monitor to better track patients’ vitals and a device to minimize surgical risk.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in health care?
Improving the quality of care while lowering costs. It’s the Holy Grail of medicine. That’s why we are transitioning to value-based care and away from traditional fee-for-service medicine. The core change is that doctors and hospitals are paid to keep people healthy. We are already realizing tens in millions in savings and our patients are healthier.
Tell us what you’re most excited about going forward? How will Hackensack Meridian Health positively affect the health care system?
We developed Cancer Outcomes Tracking & Analysis (Cota), a digital classification system that tracks gender, age, type and stage of cancer and other qualities. This helps physicians personalize treatment and track cost. An example - we found that spending $4,000 on testing for certain breast cancer patients resulted in actually saving $11,000 because not all patients would have benefitted from chemotherapy.
What trends will define health care in the next decade?
Value-based, patient-centric care and advances in technology – especially gathering and analyzing Big Data.
Collaborations are hard to accomplish, how do you make collaborations work well at Hackensack?
You must be recognized as a leader and innovator before you partner with other systems or companies. Once that’s established you must craft a clear mission together. Here’s a great example. The shared goal of our historic partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is simple: find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring everyone has access to the highest quality care.