Ben Franklin Tech Partners Wins Grant to Boost Philly Life Sciences

The funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce will bring more than $1 million and 100 jobs to the region.

Anthony Green, Vice President of the Technology Commercialization Group at Ben Franklin Tech Partners.

Anthony Green, vice president of the technology commercialization group at Ben Franklin Technology Partners / Courtesy photo

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP), the region’s largest tech investor, just won a $633,555 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support the development of a new life sciences innovation cluster.

The grant will be matched with more than $600,000 in funds from BFTP and its local partners and will support the development of the Greater Philadelphia Regional Integrated Medicine Alliance (PRIMA) network, a virtual partnership designed to bolster the region’s biotech and pharmaceutical technology ecosystem. In total, the EDA grant will result in nearly $1.3 million in seed funding for small companies and research institutions working to bring new technologies and therapies to market.

“This investment will help implement a technical assistance program designed to create a virtual network of resources for early-stage life sciences businesses and will accelerate the commercialization of novel technologies,” U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development John Fleming said in a statement.

PRIMA expands on previous BFTP initiatives like Ben Franklin FabNet, a partnership network that provides matching funds for regional companies in need of prototyping and design facilities and services. The new initiative is unique in that it functions like a typical incubator or accelerator, providing innovators with funding and resources, but it has no physical home.

“Lots of other cities have life sciences incubators, but we wanted to create something unique in Philadelphia and we didn’t want to have to worry about building a building. So, the idea that this is virtual makes perfect sense,” said Anthony Green, BFTP’s vice president of technology commercialization.

Through virtual exchanges, BFTP will connect early-stage companies with local service providers in the PRIMA network that have expertise in everything from supply chain management to clinical trial strategy. The process is designed to remove barriers to commercialization and ultimately create more jobs. According to Green, PRIMA will help create as many as 100 jobs over the next three years.

“The real job growth is going to come from these small companies that, as they accelerate the development of their technology, will need to hire more people,” Green told NextHealth PHL. “The true intent of PRIMA is to help these companies through the entire commercialization process, not just specifically prototyping and fabrication. We provide support from the earliest part of the process, which could include market research and target discovery, all the way through the entire commercialization spectrum.”

According to Green, many early-stage companies in the life sciences fail because they either aren’t aware of the number of resources they’ll need to achieve their company goals or they don’t know where to find the resources they need. PRIMA aims to bridge that information gap.

“We’re trying to make sure these companies think all the way through the process and not just do it bit by bit and then hope that something happens down the line. These resources will be incredibly useful for these capital-intensive technologies, especially in biotech,” Green explained.

If the network is successful, Green anticipates the region will see new technologies and companies, job creation, increased regional competitiveness, and most importantly, more investment in local companies.

Christopher Molineaux, president and chief executive officer of Life Sciences Pennsylvania, called PRIMA a big step forward for the local life sciences community.

“This partnership offers additional resources and new advisory options for Philadelphia’s vibrant life sciences ecosystem,” Molineaux said. “In the same spirit as the University City Science Center and BioAdvance, southeast PA’s life sciences greenhouse, the PRIMA network assembles another collection of resources and expertise to help accelerate the commercialization of new technologies.  It’s the latest example of the region’s science, business and service provider communities working in unison to drive innovation and job creation.”