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Innovation laboratory

Why the Garden State continues to attract life science companies

When business owners and executives talk about economic threats to New Jersey, one recurring topic is the way that other states are luring away companies by offering lower taxes and fewer regulations. But soon after Dr. Marco Taglietti took over as chief executive officer of Scynexis — a publicly traded biotechnology company focusing on difficult-to-treat and often life-threatening infections — he concluded that a move to New Jersey would be the right strategy for the growing business

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“In 2015, we were going through a transformation [selling off its contract research and development services business] to become a biotech, and we needed new talent,” Taglietti said. “A move to Jersey City made sense because it would allow us to tap into a wide, deep R&D and commercialization talent pool of individuals in New Jersey, New York City and Westchester County. From the point of view of access to talent and financial investors, I saw this location as being even better than, say, Cambridge, Mass.”

Taglietti (AARON HOUSTON)

Travel options and other issues also influenced his decision. “New Jersey offers tremendous connections, with easy access to airports and a rail system,” he noted. “A Jersey City location enables us to easily get to centers like New York City, Philadelphia, or Boston; while space here is priced significantly lower than it is in New York.”

“We are extremely excited that Scynexis will be relocating to Jersey City, as this is another example of how we continue to diversify our commercial sector,” Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop told NJBIZ when Scynexis announced its move. “The focus of our administration has been to continue our growth and expansion, with firms from the pharmaceutical industry, technology, clothing, media and the medical field all choosing to locate in Jersey City.”

Since it moved to the Garden State, the biotech has more than quadrupled its staff, from six to 25, while leveraging resources like the state’s Tax Certificate Transfer, or Net Operating Loss funding, program, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority announced in January.

“The NOL Program enables eligible technology and life-sciences companies to sell their New Jersey net operating losses and unused research and development (R&D) tax credits to unrelated profitable corporations for cash,” the NJEDA noted. “Scynexis was one of 14 companies to participate in the NOL Program for the first time in 2018, and was among a total of 48 companies that were approved to share $60 million through the program last year.”

When it comes to life sciences and biotech companies, New Jersey sets the gold standard, said Debbie Hart, CEO of the life sciences advocacy group BioNJ, which represents some 400 member companies.

Expanding base

Hart

“New Jersey offers a tremendous pool of academic and industry research, thanks to the companies, universities and medical centers in the state,” she said. “Additionally, we’ve got a wide base of biotech and pharmaceutical companies here already, and that’s a valuable resource for new and expanding companies, which can easily find the research and people they need here, or in neighboring centers like New York and Philadelphia. The state government’s support and commitment to innovation is another bonus.”

New Jersey hosts some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical, medical technology and diagnostics companies — including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi U.S., she added. More than 400 biotechnology companies are also located in the Garden State, including Amicus Therapeutics, Celgene Corp., Chromocell, ContraVir Pharmaceuticals, Genmab and PTC Therapeutics.

“The annual economic impact of the life sciences industry in New Jersey is estimated to be $47.5 billion,” she said. “Our educational ecosystem — with public and private four-year universities, including Princeton University and Rutgers University, county colleges, and top engineering schools like NJIT and Stevens Institute — also help to make New Jersey a magnet for life science companies.”

Will Lewis, CEO of rare-disease biopharmaceutical company Insmed Inc., praised the state’s attractions. “New Jersey is a strong hub for biopharmaceutical talent; and as a growing global company headquartered in N.J., we’ve been able to tap into that talent pool and assemble a team of some of the brightest minds in the industry,” he said. The state’s assistance to growing biopharmaceutical companies like his — like promoting tax incentives, training and networking — means “the overall community benefits from the existence of so many life sciences companies,” added Lewis. “Keeping these efforts ongoing will go a long way toward attracting the talent and technologies that will ensure New Jersey remains a critical hub for life sciences innovation.”

Insmed is expanding its New Jersey presence, he noted, “and we will be moving to a new, state-of-the-art headquarters this fall, which will more than double our space including both labs and our corporate headquarters. All of this will be located in Bridgewater near our current facility.”

Paranicas

The state’s century-plus legacy as “the medicine chest of the world” and its continuing commitment to innovation mean New Jersey is likely to remain a life sciences powerhouse, said Dean J. Paranicas, CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, HINJ, a trade association for the state’s research-based biopharmaceutical and medical technology industry.

“New Jersey continues to replenish and nourish an innovative ecosystem consisting of the academic, private and public sectors, and we offer an incredible, educated workforce,” he said. “The New Jersey-New York region ranks No. 3 on Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News’ 2018 top 10 U.S. biopharma clusters list, while Philadelphia is ranked No. 6.”

He said the state’s value isn’t limited to just the number of companies, though. “The fact is, there are all kinds of collaborations going on,” according to Paranicas. “Established companies and new ones work together, the academic community gets involved, and value is also added by the state’s comprehensive vendor network, and a strong manufacturing base. The topping is the state’s position as a transportation hub, easy access to capital markets, and a diverse population. I’m excited about the future.”

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