Denita Henderson Named Managing Director at Pennovation Works

Media Contact: Jennifer Rizzi, Director, Communications, Penn Facilities & Real Estate Services, 215.573.6107,

November 10, 2022

Pennovation Works has announced that a new Managing Director, Denita Henderson, has been appointed to help guide the overall direction and oversight of the 23-acre innovation community adjacent to Penn’s West Philadelphia academic campus. A Philadelphia native and University of Pennsylvania alumna, Denita is thrilled to be back on campus and committed to enhancing the role of Pennovation Works as a leading ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship within the life sciences and technology industries.

As Managing Director, Denita is charged with implementation of the long-range strategic master plan. She leads business development of the site, including marketing, communications, and leasing. Denita manages the strategic direction of the Pennovation Center, the community’s business, technology and laboratory incubator and the Lab Building, a 65,000 sq. ft. multi-tenant wet lab and office space, opened in 2021. Denita will work collaboratively with the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI), PCI Ventures, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research on company curation and programming of the ecosystem.  In addition, she will monitor the development, design, construction and operations of the property.

As a strategic and innovative visionary with over twenty years of experience, Denita brings to the role her expertise in real estate and economic development and community advancement. Earlier in her career, Denita served in the Office of the Mayor of the City of Wilmington as the Director of Small Business Development. In past positions, she also advised corporations, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits as a business development consultant focusing on strategic planning and management.

Denita Henderson built her career on developing programs and partnerships that strengthen and connect diverse communities, create value, and drive meaningful change. She has mastered the art of crafting high impact strategies aligning to business objectives, and actively engages business leaders, energizes colleagues, and empowers communities. Now, as Managing Director, Denita will focus on advancing the growing community of researchers and entrepreneurs at Pennovation Works. 

“My initial goals include a focus on fully activating the space, reinforcing a sense of place with opportunities for new connections and advancements,” Denita explains when discussing the future. “I want to get more people together again in-person, and encourage the natural collaboration amongst innovators, mentors, and visitors of the ecosystem. Pennovation Works will continue to develop as a dynamic hub for activity within the local and broader innovation community.”

One of Denita’s immediate responsibilities includes partnering in the planning, development, and construction with Longfellow Real Estate Partners for a Life Sciences Research, Development and Manufacturing Facility. This ~437,000 square foot facility segmented into 377,000 square feet of research and development space and 60,000 square feet of biomanufacturing space will have rooftop terraces with views of Philadelphia’s skyline and Penn’s campus, as well as access to amenities of the entire Pennovation Works. The new development includes flexible lab/office space allowing for tenants to customize to meet their needs. The project design includes two adjoining six-story buildings to be completed in phased construction, with an initial opening anticipated for late 2025.

“As the new managing director, Denita will ensure Pennovation Works continues to be a leading hub for innovation within the greater Philadelphia region,” said Ed Datz, executive director of real estate at Penn. “The technological advancements coming out of this ecosystem are notable and impactful. Penn will give ongoing support to these entrepreneurs as they foster their ideas into products, ventures, and services for the greater good.”

Since the 2016 opening of the Pennovation Center, the overall site has repositioned over 180,000 sq. ft. of usable space, hosted over 200 companies, and added unique structures to the ecosystem, like a flying robot containment net and the Penn Vet Working Dog Center agility  training course. Penn’s long-range plan is to grow the community into an approximately 1.8 million square foot development.


About Pennovation Works

Pennovation Works is a distinctive blend of offices, labs, and production space developed by the University of Pennsylvania to link the intellectual and entrepreneurial initiatives necessary for advancing knowledge and generating economic development. The master plan articulates a phased approach, with initial activity focused on site improvements and renovation of existing buildings, including the Pennovation Lab in 2021, the Inventor Office Building in 2018, and the 2016 completion of the Pennovation Center, a business incubator that provides lab space and acts as a hub for collaboration and the exchange of ideas for innovators from  all disciplines.

The 23-acre property adjacent to Penn's campus accommodates state-of-the-art facilities, researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry partners solving real-world problems and translating inventiveness into viable ventures. Approximately 70 companies and an estimated 400 people are currently located at Pennovation, Where Ideas Go To Work.  By grouping facilities for innovation, technological development, and artistic production, Penn envisions a multifaceted workshop for harnessing and commercializing the tremendous creative potential in the region. 

Denita Henderson, Managing Director outside the Pennovation Center