Some may attend to hear him discuss Morris County as a hub for the life sciences. His talk, sponsored by the Morris County Economic Development Corp., will be preceded by a panel discussion including corporate executives who moved their life sciences companies here and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
Many more, though, are likely to come just to meet John Crowley. Crowley is a rock star social entrepreneur, as well as a dad for the ages. His story led to two books, and inspired the 2010 movie Extraordinary Measures.
The year was 1998. Crowley, a New Jersey native, heard the worst news of his life.
His 15-month-old daughter, Megan, was diagnosed with a severe neuromuscular disorder, Pompe’s disease. Megan was not expected to live beyond age 5. Only a few months later, his infant son, Patrick, was also diagnosed with Pompe. There was no known cure.
At that time, drug companies lacked financial incentives to develop a treatment for this rare wasting disease. But Crowley was extraordinarily motivated. He moved his family from Boston (where he had completed an MBA at Harvard) to Princeton, to be near doctors specializing in Pompé.
Crowley supported the family with a job at Bristol-Myers Squibb while immersing himself in health research and working with his wife Aileen and non-profit organizations to fund Pompe research.
They discovered multiple researchers working on the disease were not communicating. Frustrated with the pace of research, Crowley walked away from the corporate world at the age of 31 to co-found a start-up biotech company, focused exclusively on producing a cure for his first two children.
Crowley eventually got Megan and Patrick into live-saving drug trials. Their story continues to this day.
In 2006, a journalist who had first profiled the Crowleys’ story for The Wall Street Journal published The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million – And Bucked the Medical Establishment – In a Quest to Save His Children.
John and Aileen Crowley published Chasing Miracles in 2010, the same year the film Extraordinary Measures was released. The film stars Brendan Frasier and Kerri Russell as the Crowleys and Harrison Ford as the research MD. Crowley gets an ironic, one-line role, as a venture capitalist who questions the investment-worthiness of his startup. Copies of the DVD can be found in 23 of the 38 libraries in Morris County.
With his intimate knowledge of the startup culture in on the West Coast and New Jersey, Crowley’s insights about the Garden State as a hub for commercializing life sciences are expected to be very actionable. A hot buffet lunch with a selection of cold salads is included in the $85 price of the event. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org; online registration will be available after the Chamber’s data migration is completed next week.