This week, the University City Science Center launched the newest module in its successful Global Soft Landing Accelerator, with this latest cohort focused on cell and gene therapy. Seven Canadian companies are participating in the six-week online program, which assists businesses interested in entering the U.S. market with advice, mentorship, and access to a network of industry leaders.

This is the fifth cohort offered by the Science Center since it launched the program in June 2019, but the first for cell and gene therapy, said Karina Sotnik, director of Business Incubation & Accelerator Programs at the Science Center. Sotnik, who is from Europe, said the work is a personal passion for her. “I want to put Philadelphia on the map,” she said.

The program offers insight into the legal, operational, financial, regulatory, and cultural considerations of an expansion to the U.S. with a dozen sessions led by content experts, along with small group meetings that provide individualized support. Attendees participate in four hours of online programs each week, including an hour weekly of one-on-one mentoring. (Prior programs were offered in-person, but moved online this spring due to COVID-19.)

The kickoff session, held October 12, was an introduction to the local life science ecosystem and focused on the Greater Philadelphia region as an emerging hub. Featured speakers included David Briel, executive director of international investment for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s office of International Business Development; Kurt Imhof, vice president of policy and public affairs for Life Sciences Pennsylvania; and Pierre-Olivier Lugez, director, International Business & Global Strategy, City of Philadelphia Dept. of Commerce.

Andrew Hamilton, partner, Morgan Lewis, is a featured speaker for a session on October 14 on strategic and tactical considerations for establishing a presence in the U.S. Other sessions focus on legal considerations for companies, including visa and immigration law, and fundamentals of protecting intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, and copyright.

Participants will also learn about marketing to the U.S. healthcare industry stakeholders, including patients, payers, and providers. A session on clinical research and regulatory affairs will cover preparing for FDA approval. A module on manufacturing and supply chains will present an overview of components and continuity of the supply chain, and manufacturing considerations for different stages of clinical programs and commercial implementation.

A two-part session on operations will focus on business considerations when opening or relocating a company to the U.S., including banking, taxes, accounting, and insurance, as well as legal and practical considerations when hiring talent.

The closing session, to be held next month, will focus on funding opportunities and review multiple resources such as government contracts, angel investors, and venture capitalists. Donna Boston, program manager with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s (BARDA) Division of Research Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a featured speaker, along with other local investors from Angel and VC community. There is already interest from companies in Italy and France to repeat the focused accelerator for cell and gene companies, according to Sotnik.

“My motto is always, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’,” Sotnik said. By participating in the Global Soft Landing Accelerator, companies learn what they need to know.

To learn more about the program, visit