On May 19, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia will honor Drexel University President John Fry with its 2021 William Penn Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a business person in the Greater Philadelphia region. The award, which has been given annually since 1949, recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions toward the betterment of the region, professional accomplishments, and commitment to charity as well as to the community.

Fry was appointed Drexel University’s 14th president in 2010. Under his leadership, Drexel has set a national example for the execution of public-private partnerships, and become a powerful force for economic development in the region.  He served two years as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia from 2016 through October 2018. He provided pivotal leadership in the conception and launch of the Chamber’s Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative to accelerate growth in the life sciences sector and position the region as a global hub for cell and gene therapy.

With collaboration from partner institutions, organizations and companies, the Initiative, now in its fourth year,  has strengthened the region’s innovation economy through a multi-pronged strategy that includes shared storytelling that builds awareness of the region’s assets, resources to start-up and scaling companies, ongoing assessment of the talent needs of the sector, and support for development of the critical infrastructure required for the sector’s growth.

Today, Greater Philadelphia is home to 45 cell and gene therapy research and development companies – up from 30 just three years ago – and interest in expanding in the region’s connected, collaborative and accessible community continues to grow. More than $12 billion was invested in life sciences across our 11-county region in 2021-22, according to data from biopharma database company DealForma, a 250 percent increase from 2020 (Source: Big4Bio). Greater Philadelphia’s cell and gene therapy hub saw more than $3 billion invested in the sector in 2021, also according to data from DealForma.

“John Fry recognized the importance of our region focusing on the cell and gene therapy sectors, and put the plans in motion, gathering partners to work together for success,” said Claire Marrazzo Greenwood, senior vice president of Economic Competitiveness for the Chamber and executive director of its regional CEO Council for Growth. “Thanks to his leadership, we have now established the collaborative framework to continue to advance the sectors, solve for the current and future talent needs, and ensure that the benefits of this growth and shared equitably throughout our community,” she added.

“When I returned to Philadelphia 12 years ago, I saw that University City had the essential ingredients for becoming a hub for innovation in science and technology as powerful as our counterparts in Cambridge, North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and Silicon Valley. Now, thanks to great collaboration and partnerships throughout our network of universities, hospitals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations, our region’s tech, biotech, and life sciences are booming, and we are now among the fastest growing ecosystems for cell and gene therapy.”

The William Penn Award ceremony will recognize Fry’s vision and leadership in accelerating growth in Philadelphia’s technology and life science sectors through the establishment of innovation districts on University-owned real estate on the eastern and western edges of Drexel’s campus, while shining a spotlight on two recent development projects on Drexel’s campus that will increase the region’s competitiveness in cell and gene therapy innovation:

  • Spark Therapeutics, a member of the Roche Group, announced a $575 million, 500,000-square-foot state-of-the-art gene therapy innovation center at 30th and Chestnut streets; and
  • Gattuso Development Partners and Drexel University announced they will partner to build a $400 million, 500,000-square-foot life sciences research and laboratory building at 3201 Cuthbert Street in West Philadelphia.

Both projects are expected to begin construction later this year.

Click here for more information about the William Penn Award ceremony honoring Drexel University President John Fry. JG