Press Release
April 23, 2015
5 minute read

Executives-in-Residence Chosen To Mentor Emerging Companies at EDA’S Life Sciences Incubator

TRENTON (April 23, 2015) – Tapping into the State’s broad pool of talented life sciences professionals, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) today announced the appointment of the inaugural group of six highly-qualified professionals to its Executive-in-Residence program.  Developed in collaboration with BioNJ, these professionals will mentor and advise the emerging growth companies located at the EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) in North Brunswick. 

The selected Executives, who have high level business experience and skills in life sciences, will mentor and coach CCIT’s promising companies through weekly office hours. CCIT tenants will also be able to seek advice on non-scientific business topics from the Executives as they grow their companies.  Additionally, the Executives will offer lectures on topics of interest and relevance.

“With more than 175 years of combined experience between them, these highly qualified Executives-in-Residence will provide invaluable guidance to the emerging companies at CCIT,” EDA Chief Executive Officer Melissa Orsen said.  “The areas of expertise represented in this particular group of Executives run the gamut from commercialization to financial planning, all critical skills as companies look to grow and thrive in New Jersey.”

CCIT’s first group of Executives-in-Residence includes Jean E. Merrill, PhD, of Morristown; Joseph DePinto of Skillman; Catherine Abbadie, PhD, of Princeton; Dana Darst, MSJ, of Pennington; Paul Jeffrey of Ortley Beach; and Neil R. Milano of Montclair.  A summary of the Executives-in-Residence biographies is included below and photos of each are available upon request.

Designed for life sciences executives in transition, the Executive-in-Residence program offers many benefits to those individuals participating, including: an office suite at CCIT; the title of Executive-in-Residence; exposure on the EDA’s website; and, access to multiple technology networks in the state, including BioNJ. 

The application process is highly competitive, and rolling, with appointments of new Executives made on a quarterly basis.  To be eligible, Executives must be full-time residents of New Jersey with legal working status in the United States.  Qualified individuals must also be willing to work at CCIT at least one day a week to advise and mentor tenants. More information about the program, including eligibility, can be found at

The Executive-in-Residence Program is the latest in a series of programs based at CCIT designed to connect emerging life sciences companies with local resources.  Last month, CCIT hosted the EDA’s third “Founders and Funders” event, which provides entrepreneurs and start-up companies with access to angel and venture capital investors.

To learn about programs and initiatives that support the technology industry, visit and follow the EDA on Twitter and LinkedIn @NJEDATech.

Catherine Abbadie of Princeton (Executive–in-Residence – Business Development, Strategic Alliances and Partnering) brings a wealth of experience in strategic alliances to the Executive-in-Residence position.  She has vast knowledge of initiating, negotiating and managing partnerships with academia, biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device companies.  Among her prior positions, she was a Director in the R&D Alliances group at Alcon, a division of Novartis.  Abbadie was an integral member of the Licensing/Business Development teams, where she led project evaluation, due diligence, deal parameters, and negotiation processes for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.  She identified, negotiated and closed deals, which brought innovative products and development opportunities to the Alcon/Novartis portfolio. She also led alliance management responsibilities with contract research organizations, pharma and medical device companies and universities.  Abbadie holds a PhD in Neuropharmacology from René Descartes University (Paris, France) and was a Research Fellow at the University of California in San Francisco and the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Dana Darst of Pennington (Executive-in-Residence – Licensing, Commercial Operations and Strategic Planning) has extensive experience leading partnership development and contracting with companies in the health and life sciences industry.  His career, in both large and small Life Sciences companies, has largely been about creating partnerships that drive healthcare innovation.  Additionally, he has strong experience in negotiating and managing complex agreements and contracts.  He has held executive-level business development positions with several early-stage start-up companies, including Navigating Cancer and Theranos.  He also has deep experience in business-to-business contracting, in managed care markets, pharma services markets and in large hospital systems. Additionally, he has experience in both corporate compliance and regulatory work for life sciences.  Darst has a dual MS degree in Jurisprudence, with joint concentrations in Health Law and Intellectual Property Law, from Seton Hall Law School.

Joseph DePinto of Skillman (Executive-in-Residence – Commercialization) has spent more than 25 years working in oncology at both big pharma and small biotech companies.  As a strategic-thinking executive, he has an exemplary record of leading strategy, business development, global commercialization and investor relations for both large and small companies.  He has led strategic initiatives in both disease areas and in drug development.  He has held executive board level positions in several companies, and is considered a strong strategic-thinking executive.  DePinto’s core leadership competencies include leading all aspects of strategy, drug development, investor relations, and commercialization.  He has been responsible for multiple global launches. Prior to accepting the Executive in Residence role, DePinto was the Executive Vice-President, Chief Commercial Officer at Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, the EVP Global Commercial Operations at Dendreon, and the VP Global Commercial Operations at ImClone.  He also spent 15 years at Johnson & Johnson in various commercial roles.  DePinto's education includes a BS in Marketing and an MBA in Pharmaceutical Chemical Studies Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Paul Jeffrey of Ortley Beach (Executive-in-Residence – Valuation and Business Planning) is a business advisor and consultant with over 30 years of pharmaceutical development experience.  Jeffrey uses his talent and broad knowledge of pharmaceutical development and deal making to assist small biotech companies in maximizing their value to potential partners.  Prior to consulting, Jeffrey was with Pfizer for more than 25 years, most recently as Vice President of Early Commercial Development for all prescription products in their Primary Care Business Unit.  During his tenure at Pfizer, Jeffrey held many roles in the company, including product development, marketing and new business strategy.  He was the Global Marketing Lead for the cardiovascular and metabolic/diabetes products including Lipitor, Caduet and Eliquis.  Jeffrey has led many cross-functional teams across diverse disease areas including infectious disease, HIV, oncology and neuroscience.  Jeffrey has a BS from Carnegie Mellon, an MS in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from New York University. 

Jean Merrill of Morristown (Executive-in-Residence – Tactical and Strategic Business Models) is an internationally recognized leader, innovator and strategically-focused Research and Development (R&D) Executive with a record of professional accomplishments in industry and academia.  With more than 35 year of experience, Merrill’s expertise spans from basic research to drug development, from idea inception to the clinic.  Most recently, Merrill was the VP and Global Head of Neuroimmunology at Merck Serono.  Her career includes work in the area of inflammatory diseases of the nervous system; she was an early innovator in the field of Neuroimmunology.  As US Head of Neurology and Multiple Sclerosis [MS] research at Sanofi aventis, Merrill was responsible for strategy and implementation of a neuroimmunology and regenerative medicine portfolio, management of CNS division’s administrative activities in the US, and management of global MS research activities of a multinational group. Merrill received an MBA and a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from UCLA.

Neil R. Milano of Montclair, (Executive in Residence – CFO) has more than 30 years of financial and operational experience, including the last 15 years with start-up company management teams.  As the Chief Financial Officer for Nautilus Neurosciences, Inc., Milano launched Cambia®, an FDA approved product for migraine headaches. While he was with them, he grew the company from two to 65 employees.  In his career, he has been recruited by private equity groups Tailwind Capital and Warburg Pincus, to be the CFO of many of their portfolio companies both in the US and in Brazil.  Milano was also an Operating Executive at Tailwind Capital and has deep operational experience, having been responsible for building out commercial operations, managing sales operations, and overseeing trade and sales analytics. He also has deep corporate financial experience, including leading companies through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), raising growth capital, managing preferred equity deals and debt financings, and being brought in to lead a company through Chapter 11 filings and restructurings. Milano received both a BS and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University.