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Aboard a train rolling through New Brunswick, NJ, in 1886, James Wood Johnson looked out the window and noticed a “for rent” sign on a factory building. That building became the first home of the company he co-founded with his two brothers, a 14-employee startup that grew into Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company.
Middlesex County, NJ, has since become a rich and fertile ground for a range of life sciences businesses. This is the home of major biopharmas like Bristol Myers Squibb and two Danish drug developers, Novo Nordisk and Genmab. “It’s no coincidence that New Jersey is named the ‘Medicine Chest of the World’ with 14 pharmaceutical giants, and we’re right in the heart of it,” said Sandy Castor, Director, Office of Business Engagement.
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick features the state’s only National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Care Center. Partnering with Development Corp. (DEVCO) and the City of New Brunswick, the County has invested in developing the state’s first freestanding cancer hospital. The $750 million, 510,000-square-foot Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center is now under construction.
On another front, innovative biotechs are making their way, including BioCentriq, Chromocell, PDS Biotech, Rafael Pharmaceuticals, and Rocket Pharmaceuticals—as well as life sciences campuses such as Princeton Corporate Plaza, Cedar Brook Corporate Plaza, and Princeton Innovation Center, all on the Route 1 “Einstein’s Alley” corridor and the 50-acre New Jersey Bioscience Center containing New Jersey’s largest biotech incubator, the Incubator at North Brunswick.
Rocket Pharmaceuticals, a gene therapy developer, is expanding its R&D and manufacturing facilities within a new headquarters being built in Cranbury, scaling up to produce adeno-associated virus (AAV) product for a planned Phase II study in Danon disease.
BioCentriq completed construction in January on a GMP-ready, 9,000-square-foot clinical manufacturing facility in South Brunswick, adjacent to its existing pilot plant. The new facility supports clinical manufacturing of allogeneic and autologous cell therapies and gene therapies.
In November 2021, life sciences research tools and services provider GenScript USA opened an over-50,000-square-foot gene synthesis and plasmid preparation services facility in Piscataway, near its U.S. headquarters. GenScript intends to add up to 200 jobs over the next two years at its first automated manufacturing site in the U.S.
Construction is progressing on the New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub, a $665 million, 550,000-square-foot lab-office complex. Building on New Jersey’s commitment to being the “Innovation State,” the Hub will enhance the County’s core strength in R&D and promote collaboration through incubator lab space.
“Life sciences continues to thrive in Middlesex County for many reasons, but most importantly, our robust infrastructure enables a solid foundation for ongoing, sustainable growth,” said Castor.
Middlesex County enjoys the largest life sciences workforce in New Jersey —about 11,250 people, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. That workforce has emerged from a top-tier education ecosystem with two nationally ranked specialized high schools. One is Middlesex County Magnet School, Edison Academy (formerly Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies), ranked #1 statewide and #23 nationally. The other is Middlesex County Magnet School, Woodbridge Academy (formerly Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences), ranked #6 statewide and #69 nationally.
At the university level, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, advances life sciences through the Cancer Institute and:
- Rutgers Business School, which offers concentrations in drug discovery and development, plus biotech and genomics.
- Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science.
- Rutgers University Biomedical Research Innovation Cores.
- Rutgers University Microbiome Program.
“As one of the most connected regions in New Jersey via mass transit —trains, buses, highways, and in the near future, waterways with two new ferry terminals— Middlesex County is ideally situated for economic development,” said Castor. “Our location alone, an hour from New York City and Philadelphia—makes us very attractive for any life sciences company to grow roots and flourish.”