Dedicated to advancing health-related research in New Jersey, the New Jersey Health Foundation (NJHF) is a not-for-profit organization that provides faculty and student researchers at NJ-based organizations with financial resources and operational support. Princeton and NJHF collaborate to fund and facilitate new, cutting-edge efforts in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

Alongside NJHF in its support for Princeton are NJHF’s affiliates: the Foundation Venture Capital Group and the Foundation for Health Advancement. The Foundation Venture Capital group uses impact investing to provide pre-seed and seed funding to health-related startup companies at affiliated organizations, helping them advance toward and through commercialization. The Foundation for Health Advancement supports health-related research and education programs in New Jersey, growing new science-based businesses in collaboration with New Jersey-based research institutions, and inspiring students to pursue STEM majors and careers. The Foundation for Health Advancement has also supported innovation at Princeton through activities such as its sponsorship of Princeton Innovation’s 2021 Empower conference celebrating Black academic entrepreneurship. During Empower, the foundation awarded a monetary prize plus generous in-kind services to the top winner in a pitch competition that attracted startup ventures arising from research at institutions across the country.

A Partnership for Public Benefit

In 2018, NJHF and Princeton entered into an agreement with the potential to provide $10 million to support healthcare and drug discovery-related technology projects. With this agreement in place, NJHF may contribute up to $2 million a year to support Princeton’s groundbreaking translational research and the start-up companies that hope to build upon that research for public use and benefit. The Office of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations and the Office of Technology Licensing worked with NJHF to establish this agreement.

The first start-up to receive seed funding under this agreement between NJHF and Princeton was Kayothera, an early-stage therapeutics company with origins at Princeton. Yibin Kang, Princeton’s Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology, and Mark Esposito, a former postdoctoral research associate in the Kang lab, co-founded Kayothera to pursue the development of therapies based on discoveries made in the Kang lab. The company is developing therapies to treat late-stage and metastatic cancers that are fairly resistant to current chemotherapy and pharmaceutical treatments, including breast, lung, pancreatic, colorectal, brain, and kidney cancers.

Besides Kayothera, NJHF has helped in the early stages of several other research projects with Princeton origins. In 2021, the Philadelphia-based University City Science Center selected a rapid drug dehydration technique for development through its QED Proof of Concept program. This technique uses atomization to convert liquid pharmaceutical drugs and vaccine formulations into dried powders that are stable at room temperature, reducing cost, energy consumption and environmental impact compared to existing approaches. Early development of this technology was made possible through support from NJHF along with the New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science. Princeton Research Scholar Maksim Mezhericher leads Princeton's team for this technology in collaboration with Howard Stone, Princeton’s Donald R. Dixon '69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Student Strategic Support

NJHF has also assisted an undergraduate student collective that helps transfer Princeton biotech research to business ventures. Alimtas Bioventures, a sub-team of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, formed a partnership with NJHF in 2018 for strategic support. The team reached out to NJHF when they heard about the foundation's agreement with the University to support healthcare technology projects. 

Grants for Great Innovation

NJHF also provides funding to faculty research in its early stages. NJHF hopes this initial funding and related research will help applicants qualify for larger grants from other organizations in the future.

Recipients have included Alexander Ploss, associate professor of molecular biology, who received a $50,000 NJHF Innovation Grant in 2018. Ploss’ research focuses on deciphering the molecular mechanisms of acute and chronic hepatitis viruses. This funding has helped Ploss advance understanding of the biology of hepatitis B and E infections and their treatments. Another recipient has been Max Wilson, a former postdoctoral research associate in molecular biology, who in 2016 received a $50,000 NJHF Innovation Grant to advance two projects aimed at controlling cell behavior to improve treatments for a wide range of diseases.

NJHF has expanded its grant program to offer Community Health and Social Service Grants. These grants are for projects addressing important health-related community and social issues impacting society. More information on the foundation’s grant program can be found on the NJHF website.

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