Why N.J. can be ‘Medicine Chest’ — and home to innovative companies of the future

It was asked at a recent New Jersey Chamber of Commerce meeting whether New Jersey was losing its edge as the “Medicine Chest of the World,” as it’s making way for more innovative early-stage companies and a fresh new moniker as the “Innovation State.”

My response: Why not both?

I would like to suggest that New Jersey can walk and chew gum at the same time.

New Jersey has maintained its well-deserved reputation as the “Medicine Chest of the World,” as evidenced by 70 new FDA drug approvals in the last two years, representing nearly 40% of all FDA drug approvals during that period. In addition, of the nearly 1,000 COVID-19 programs initiated since the onset of the pandemic, nearly 100 came from New Jersey-based companies — including the first COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) and therapeutics (Merck, Pfizer, Lilly, Gilead, GSK) … and the first saliva COVID-19 test from Rutgers University. Layer that on top of increased entrepreneurship and early-stage company creation and spinouts from our academic institutions and, clearly, New Jersey remains the state for leading life sciences.

The growth in earlier-stage activity is in part evidenced by the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology funding programs being oversubscribed by five times and companies leveraging funding they received from the commission by a factor of 16. Meanwhile, what is going on in real estate development in the form of the Hub in New Brunswick, the Cove and SciTech Scity in Jersey City is unprecedented — continuing to build upon New Jersey’s reputation as a leading innovation powerhouse.

Companies continue to choose the Garden State to call home, as recently illustrated by Genmab moving its U.S. headquarters and research & development laboratories to Princeton and BeiGene’s commitment to relocate its U.S. headquarters to Hopewell, which will include a sprawling manufacturing and R&D complex to develop, commercialize and manufacture new cancer treatments.

With New Jersey’s stellar reputation for supporting the life sciences industry — from scientific talent and commercialization expertise to funding and incentives — companies that are literally changing the future for patients around the world are expanding their footprint within the state.

Here a just a few examples:

  • PTC Therapeutics recently cut the ribbon on its new gene therapy manufacturing facility in Hopewell Township;
  • Insmed opened a new state-of-the-art, 118,000-square foot facility in Bridgewater;
  • Hovione is adding a 31,000-square-foot building next to its current facility in East Windsor;
  • Gilead said it will greatly expand its presence, making New Jersey an East Coast hub.

These are but a few examples of leading companies making significant capital investments in our state.

With all of this activity, I would suggest that New Jersey has more than demonstrated its ability to walk and chew gum at the same time, as it remains the “Medicine Chest of the World” and continues to grow its reputation as the “Innovation State.”

Debbie Hart is the CEO of BioNJ and recognized globally for her connection to the life science industry.