New Jersey’s Life Sciences Landscape: Accelerating Medical Breakthroughs

New Jersey is embracing the future of medicine and has a new identity as “The State of Innovation.” Evolving beyond our nickname as “The Medicine Chest of the World,” New Jersey is where disruptive startups grow and global companies on the forefront of next-generation therapeutics want to be. That’s why 13 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world are already located here and we are ranked the #2 U.S. state for biotech strength.

Still an epicenter for discovery, 40% of FDA approvals came from companies with a New Jersey footprint in 2020. As the global biopharma community enters a new era of personalized medicine, New Jersey is leading the way in cell and gene therapy. The State is also taking an active role in the addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, dozens of vaccines candidates were developed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in record time. The first of these to receive emergency approval by the FDA, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, has significant New Jersey roots. Pfizer has a major presence in New Jersey and four Ramapo College alumni were behind the vaccine’s success.

Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Brunswick, also received emergency FDA approval for its one-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Other New Jersey-based pharma companies, like Merck and Sanofi, are partnering with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture its vaccine. In fact, Sanofi is the only company to leverage its manufacturing capacity and expertise to support three different COVID-19 vaccines. Sanofi’s Ridgefield, NJ, will fill 200 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine starting in September 2021.

In March 2021, Rutgers University scientists designed a rapid 1-hour test that detects all three of the rapidly spreading variants of the coronavirus. This timeframe is much shorter than the three to five days required by current tests, which can also be more technically difficult and expensive to perform.

By the end of 2021, a majority of U.S. residents will have been positively impacted by the COVID-related efforts of New Jersey company or university. How many other U.S. states can claim the same?

 An Innovation Ecosystem with Top Talent

New Jersey’s ability to produce lifesaving medicine is a direct result of our world-class talent pool and robust innovation ecosystem.

New Jersey is home to the highest concentration of scientists and engineers per square mile in the United States. Forty percent of New Jersey residents have a Bachelor’s degree or higher (the national average is 32%). In addition, New Jersey is #1 state for employed biochemists and biophysicists. Over 300,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs are supported by New Jersey’s biopharmaceutical industry.

New Jersey’s research universities feed the talent pipeline with the #4 largest share of STEM graduates in the United States. Our higher education institutions also develop innovative research and provide opportunities for collaboration.

Princeton University was named the #1 university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best Colleges rankings for a consecutive decade. In April 2021, Princeton announced that it will be home to a new branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. The Ludwig Institute is an international community of distinguished scientists dedicated to preventing and controlling cancer.

New Jersey is home to 43 teaching hospitals and 5 medical schools. These include Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas and Morristown Medical Center that offer the infrastructure and expertise to support the translation of new medicines.

New Jersey’s independent research institutions have also made major contributions to international biomedical community. Coriell Institute for Medical Research, based in Camden, is responsible for 17,000 research projects in 85+ countries. Coriell’s biobank manages the world’s most diverse collection of cell lines, DNA and other biomaterials gathered and distributed for global use.

More Affordable, Available Lab Space

New Jersey has more lab space at a more affordable cost than our competitors in California, New York and Massachusetts.

New Jersey’s lab market offers a variety of existing options with a 15.7% vacancy rate (JLL, 2020). In a tight market, it is difficult to find any available inventory in San Francisco, Raleigh/Durham and Boston/Cambridge that all have >10% vacancy rate. What’s more, our lab space – $35 per square foot - is significantly more affordable than New York City ($80.35), Boston/Cambridge ($69.31), San Francisco ($58.30) and San Diego ($52.56).

Simply put: New Jersey offers companies more for their money without sacrificing access. Our strategic U.S. East Coast location is globally connected with 4 international airports servicing ~600 nonstop destinations.

New Jersey is home to many research parks and mixed-use campuses that has contributed to the rise of smaller and mid-size biotech companies in the state. ON3 in Nutley, the former Hoffman-LaRoche site, is now home to Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, Quest Diagnostics’s flagship lab and Eisai’s U.S.  headquarters.

As the demand for lab space continues to be strong, office-to-lab-space conversions, like in Jersey City at 95 Greene Street, are emerging with the real estate market. Developer Thor Equities is reimagining the former Colgate Palmolive factory that was most recently converted to a Merrill Lynch office. The 340,000-square-foot, eight-story building is being repositioned for R&D as New Jersey’s first urban first lab-ready life sciences property.

Another major redevelopment project in Jersey City, The Cove JC, launched in April 2021. The Cove JC is envisioned to be a global hub for commercial life sciences, tech and medicine. The live, work, play community will be located on the Hudson Riverfront across from Manhattan. The 13-acre campus is served by three international airports and offers a direction connection to New York City.

The Hub, a mixed-use site in downtown New Brunswick designed to foster innovation and incubation in New Jersey, is currently under development. In November 2020, Governor Murphy announced the first anchor tenants of The Hub. Princeton University, Rutgers University, Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health have already committed to core partner space. The Hub is expected to break ground in summer 2021 with early occupancy in 2024.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

New Jersey continues to meet demand for pharmaceutical manufacturing with a highly specialized workforce and strong density of companies growing here.

New Jersey has one of the largest concentrations of specialized commercialization expertise in the United States. Nearly 23,000 members of the State’s life sciences cluster are focused on pharmaceutical manufacturing (3x the national average). New Jersey has 139 FDA registered biopharma manufacturing facilities – the #1 concentration in the U.S.

The Princeton West Innovation Campus @ Hopewell, the former Bristol Myers-Squibb campus, has become an attractive manufacturing hub. Princeton West is a secure, multi-purpose R&D and biologic/pharmaceutical manufacturing campus with build-to-suit opportunities and 915,000 sq. ft. of existing space available for lease, plus 35 acres of build-to-suit site available.

Passage Bio entered into a long-term lease for a new laboratory at the Princeton West Innovation Campus in December 2020. This facility houses CMC laboratory operations for the company’s gene therapy programs. The new laboratory supports viral vector manufacturing and clinical development.

PTC Therapeutics Inc., a biopharmaceutical firm, currently leases 185,000 sq.ft. and multiple buildings at the campus for biologics production and research. PTC Therapeutics also has its headquarters at the NJ Center of Excellence in Bridgewater, NJ.

New Jersey is also home to 600 contract research organization (CROs) and contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) to support the move from lab to shelf. Evergreen Theragnostics, a radiopharmaceutical Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) located in Jersey City recently broke ground for its new manufacturing plant in Springfield. CRO NJ Biopharmaceuticals is expanding and moving its headquarters from New Brunswick to a lab formerly occupied by Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton.

Cell and Gene Therapy

New Jersey is emerging as a global cell and gene therapy research and development and manufacturing hub.

In October 2020, New Jersey celebrated the ribbon cutting and virtual tour of BioCentriq™, an industry-facing contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) for cell and gene therapy. Housed on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark, BioCentriq™ features GMP suites for clinical production of cell and gene therapies and a process development pilot plant. The center is designed to help global leaders in the pharmaceutical industry as well as promising startups bring innovative and novel therapies to clinical trials.

Tevogen Bio, a clinical-stage biotechnology company based in Metuchen, announced a partnership with Biocentriq in March 2021. Experts from both entities will collaborate to produce Tevogen’s proprietary COVID-19 targeted T cells. The teams will ensure quality standards are met in the large-scale manufacturing of Tevogen’s clinical grade, allogeneic CAR T-cell therapy.

NJIT is also offering a premiere professional science master’s degree program and professional graduate certificate in cell and gene therapy to meet specialized workforce needs.

 Thriving Entrepreneurship in a Biotech Cluster

New Jersey has the supportive ecosystem that can provide the resources, funding and connections for early-stage companies to thrive.

The New York/New Jersey metro area attracted the 3rd largest volume of venture capital investments ($1,397 million) in 2019 according to Crunchbase. This activity is demonstrated in the success of Woodcliff Lake-based company OriBiotech. The startup received $30M in Series A funding to bring its cell and gene therapy manufacturing platform to market.

New Jersey’s vast incubator and accelerator network offers affordable, collaborative space and technical assistance for startups to scale. New Jersey EDA offers several programs for tech and life sciences companies including free rent support through NJ Ignite.

Our innovation ecosystem also supports entrepreneurs and researchers that seek to commercialize a new technology by launching spin-out companies. Many of these take hold at nearby university-affiliated innovation hubs like Rowan University’s South Jersey Technology Park (SJTP) or premier coworking spaces like Princeton Innovation Center Biolabs.

A recent success story, Visikol, a spin-out from Rutgers University, decided to build the company from the New Jersey Bioscience Center located next door. Seeing rapid growth, Visikol announced its moving its new headquarters to Hampton in 2020. In 2021, the company announced an expansion of its facility for additional 2,000 sq.ft. of lab space.

Major Relocations and Expansions

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, New Jersey has seen steady activity and investment within the life sciences industry.

Announced in March 2021, Choose New Jersey assisted WebMD with the decision to move significant operations and approximately 600 to 700 jobs from New York City to Newark. The leading provider of healthcare information services is expected to begin a major buildout and renovation of a 100,000 sq.ft. office space.

Danish biotech firm Genmab officially moved into its new U.S. headquarters office and R&D labs in Princeton Forrestal Center in July 2020. Chris Chris Cozic, Global Head of Human Resources, credits access to top tier universities and a highly educated workforce for Genmab’s success in New Jersey.

Choose New Jersey also assisted Ascelia Pharma, a Swedish biotech company specializing in orphan oncology treatments, in establishing a U.S. presence. The company chose a New Jersey location to prepare for the launch of new candidate drug Mangoral. Ascelia selected a Woodbridge office to set up operations and sales teams.

With access to world-class talent, quality lab space, funding and an ecosystem that supports innovation, it is easy to see why biopharmaceutical companies continue to thrive in New Jersey. That’s why New Jersey is ranked the #3 life sciences cluster in the U.S.

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