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Helping global innovation find a home in Greater Philadelphia.
In 2011, UK-based biopharmaceutical company Adaptimmune was ready to enter its cancer immunotherapy products into clinical trials and establish a U.S. office. Executive Vice President Gwendolyn Binder-Scholl, Ph.D., selected the Science Center’s Port business incubator as the landing place for the growing firm. Since then, Adaptimmune has established key partnerships, completed a successful IPO, and graduated from the incubator. As Adaptimmune’s growth continues, the company is committed to expanding its presence in Philadelphia.
With a prior connection to the University City bioscience community from a three-year stint researching T-cell receptors at the University of Pennsylvania under Professor Carl June, Dr. Binder-Scholl saw Philadelphia as the clear choice when she was asked to find a home for Adaptimmune’s expansion into the U.S. in 2011. Dr. Binder-Scholl notes that “the convenient location between New York and Washington, DC makes it easier to participate in investor meetings, regulatory meetings, and conferences.” Dr. Binder-Scholl had evaluated the Science Center as a place to locate research operations; she was “very attracted by the plug-and-play nature from a laboratory as well as an office space perspective.”
Adaptimmune’s U.S. office initially consisted of Dr. Binder-Scholl and an administrative assistant. After moving the two-person team into the Science Center, Dr. Binder-Scholl found it “extremely helpful to have the infrastructure support and to be around other entrepreneurs who provided moral support.” Because of its overseas affiliation, Adaptimmune was qualified to enter the Science Center’s Global Soft Landing Program, a specialized designation within the Port business incubator that supports emerging international companies as they establish toeholds in the U.S. market.
As Adaptimmune’s U.S. team grew to 25 employees, the Port’s flexible infrastructure coupled with business services—including connecting the company to human resources, accounting, and legal assistance—provided continued support. Dr. Binder-Scholl explains, “They provided all of the supporting resources so we could just get to work.” The Philadelphia bioscience community, Dr. Binder-Scholl says, “is growing, and almost every month there’s some sort of meetup in the city where you can get educated.” She cited examples including the Science Center’s Lunch for Hungry Minds program, which “focused on a different scientific topic each month, which helped us keep our minds open to other fields,” as well as law firm Pepper Hamilton, which “routinely held helpful corporate and regulatory law briefings.”
As Adaptimmune’s initial landing place, the Science Center played a key role in the company’s trajectory of growth. Once Adaptimmune reached a certain stage of development, the company exited the Port but has remained in Philadelphia at the Navy Yard—a sure sign of the region’s healthy bioscience sector.
Dr. Binder-Scholl believes in the continued success of the Greater Philadelphia region’s life sciences hub, saying “the affordability and access to a strong workforce adds to our region’s competitiveness to attract life sciences companies.” She further explains, “In Philadelphia you are going to see continued growth of biotech. We are very happy to be in Philadelphia.”