Daniel O'Connor has come home.
The Westfield native and CEO of immunotherapy specialist OncoSec recently moved the company’s executive offices from San Diego to the old municipal building of Pennington Borough and is seeking at least 10 employees to join the firm in New Jersey.
The firm’s 30 clinical and research and development employees will still be based in San Diego for at least the next two years.
O’Connor said he was attracted to New Jersey because of the state’s Economic Development Authority’s Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer Program and the high concentration of life sciences companies.
The program, aimed at tech and biotech startups, enables unprofitable companies with fewer than 225 total U.S. employees to sell a percentage of their net operating losses and research and development tax credits to unrelated profitable corporations.
OncoSec will apply to the program once it hires 10 workers, O’Connor said.
“Getting 10 employees probably won’t be that hard to do. The other reason [we moved] is that all around the state are drug experts,” said O’Connor, a former employee of Princeton-based biopharma company Advaxis. “There’s a high concentration of drug developers, which is critical. If you go to Massachusetts and try to form a company like ours, it would difficult because you just have this high concentrated pool of drug development companies.
“New Jersey has this constant pool of professionals that are in motion, whether it’s because a pharmaceutical company downsized or something. There are credentialed people who have a track record of success and see the potential of the company and are willing to join. They’re available, so you can get the right people in addition to having the right technology.”
OncoSec, which trades on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, specializes in immunotherapy. It is developing its investigational platform, ImmunoPulse, a medication is designed to enhance local delivery and uptake of DNA-based therapeutics directly into cancerous tumors.
A former prosecutor for Somerset County, O’Connor said the Pennington location works for many reasons, such as being in the same town as the New Jersey headquarters of Bristol-Myers Squibb.
“This spot was ideal for us because it’s a vacant building and it’s been vacant for several years,” said O’Connor. “It used to be a firehouse and borough hall. There’s plenty of space for filing. It’s in a nice area co-located with BMS so it was very attractive.”
O’Connor said he hopes that OncoSec will be able to sell immunotherapy treatments to the market in the next year or two. The company has just expanded its partnership with Kenilworth-based Merck to treat late-stage breast cancer.
“We are pleased to initiate a second clinical trial collaboration with Merck — one of the world’s leading immuno-oncology companies — in late-stage breast cancer, a disease which has few treatment options,” said O’Connor “This collaboration is another example of OncoSec’s strategy to work with innovative immuno-oncology leaders, combining our ImmunoPulse IL-12 program with checkpoint inhibitor therapies to advance the care of patients.”
OncoSec also is working on a Phase II clinical trial with Merck on a similar therapy to fight late-stage melanoma, for which it is hoping for conditional approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this year.