Why N.J. figures to be a main attraction at BIO 2023

State, with so much state-of-the-art lab space in pipeline, will be sought-after pavilion at global event in Boston this week

Entities from New Jersey have long had a major presence at the annual Bio International Convention. This year’s version — which takes place Monday-Thursday in Boston — is no exception.

But, this year is a bit different.

While New Jersey has long been acknowledged as a national and global leader in life sciences, there is a feeling that New Jersey is hot again in the sector.

And for good reason.

Class A, state-of-the-art lab space is surging, thanks to the announcement of HELIX in New Brunswick and various other properties.

Then there was the news that Kenvue, Johnson & Johnson’s multibillion-dollar spinoff, will make its headquarters at an Onyx Equities site in Summit — and that Onyx Equities had acquired and plans to upgrade the 108-acre Merck site in Kenilworth.

Altogether, there is a 27% increase in lab space in the pipeline. And, as always, a workforce that includes the highest number of scientists and engineers, per square mile, in the country.

All of this gives Wes Mathews and Choose New Jersey a great story to tell from the New Jersey pavilion on the convention floor.

“New Jersey has traditionally had a robust life sciences sector, with eight of the Top 10 global biopharmaceutical companies located here,” he said. “With a 27% increase in world-class lab space in our pipeline, coupled with our usual assets — an abundance of funding, our deep STEM talent pool, strong collaboration between industry and higher ed and our ideal location — life sciences in the state is currently experiencing a remarkable surge.”

Choose certainly will have the right audience.

The BIO event is the industry’s largest gathering, with more than 15,000 life sciences industry executives expected from the global life sciences community.

Chris Paladino, the president of New Brunswick Development Corp., the master developer of HELIX, said companies already have reached out for meetings.

The same goes for Jon Saraceno, the co-managing partner of Onyx Equities, and others.

Debbie Hart, the CEO of BioNJ and a regular at the event for decades, is confident the event will pay off for the state.

N.J. and STEM: Perfect together

New Jersey not only is employing a large number of life sciences innovators (we have the third-most biochemists and biophysicists in the country), the state’s universities also are training the next generation.

New Jersey boasts the third-highest concentration of STEM degrees awarded in the country.

“BioNJ is proud to be part of the New Jersey pavilion showcasing all the Garden State has to offer — from our unrivaled workforce and world-renowned research institutions to our up-and-coming innovation hubs,” she said. “We have a sizable New Jersey contingent, including our partners at Choose New Jersey, (New Jersey Economic Development Authority) and the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology, touting the New Jersey story.

“The delegation will host various gatherings intended to expand industry partnerships and attract new businesses to the State. BioNJ is thrilled to host a number of students from our Health Equity in Clinical Trials MBA Business Plan Competition who have been invited to participate in Student Day, where they will learn about the industry and meet industry executives.”

Of course, many of those executives may already work for a company that has a major presence in New Jersey.

While global pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of medical discoveries — such as J&J, Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis — are headquartered here, some still may not realize that eight of the Top 10 global biopharmaceutical companies and nine of the Top 10 research & development companies have a home in the state.

The demise of the industry in the state not only was premature — it may never have been accurate.

New Jersey is home to a thriving innovation ecosystem of smaller, more nimble biotechnology companies, too.

In fact, in the last five years, New Jersey companies have seen an 83% increase in National Institutes of Health funding, a 126% increase in National Science Foundation Biological Sciences funding and a 225% increase in private health tech investment.

In 2022, $7.5 billion were invested in the New York/New Jersey region for health innovation.

That’s why Saraceno, the co-founder of Onyx Equities, knows he will be sought out this week. He said as much after Onyx closed the Kenvue deal.

“I know that we’re in conversations where we weren’t in the past,” Saraceno said. “I know that, when we go to bio conferences now, New Jersey isn’t an afterthought — it is out in front of the conversation.”