Paranicas Stopping the ‘brain drain’ is key to restarting Jersey economy

Andrew Sheldon//March 30, 2015

Paranicas Stopping the ‘brain drain’ is key to restarting Jersey economy

Andrew Sheldon//March 30, 2015

Sitting alone at the head of a conference table at the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey’s New Brunswick office, CEO and President Dean J. Paranicas underscored a potential threat to the often-touted workforce that makes up the state’s strong life sciences industry.

“New Jersey has the largest out migration of students to other places of any state in the United States,” he said. “It’s well established that when students go to another state to go to school, a high percentage don’t return to their home state, so it’s helpful having an infrastructure — both in the public sector in the private sector — that can sustain and support New Jersey’s students.”

But the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy, the first new degree-offering school of pharmacy in the state since 1892, is emblematic of the state’s revitalized efforts to expand its entire life sciences infrastructure through investing in education.

“Having a second (school of pharmacy) should enhance the ability of more New Jersey citizens to be able to be educated in pharmacology in New Jersey, and hopefully (they) would be able to find employment here after they graduate,” he said. “Certainly, we are working — if you look at what’s been happening in our higher education system overall — at an expansion and enhanced focus.

“The School of Pharmacy at FDU is a good example of a commitment to try and strengthen our innovation ecosystem.”

This ecosystem received a shot in the arm when the state voted in favor of the Building Our Future Bond Act of 2012. The law provided $750 million to the state’s public and private colleges and was the first legislation of its kind in a quarter-century.

“That was pivotal because it allowed our institutions to reinvest and bring their facilities up to where they need to be to meet the demands of the 21st century, in terms of what’s happening in the life sciences,” he said. “That is, positioning our universities to be able to compete effectively as part of our innovation ecosystem in New Jersey.”

For Paranicas, the government and colleges are just two legs in the tripod necessary to sustain an ecosystem. The third component he identified was private industry. As he sees it, this trifecta is what makes regions such as Boston and Silicon Valley such vital hubs for innovation.

“What distinguishes them is the fact that they all have this very strong relationship among the public sector, the private sector and the academic sector,” he said. “We’re looking to strengthen ours.”

The colleges have been taking on the endeavor, as well. Coupled with the expansions provided by the Building Our Future Bond Act, institutions have increased efforts to strengthen ties with private industry.

Colleges are engaging businesses around the state, such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s relationship with its Newark neighbor Panasonic Corp., last year’s partnership between Rowan University and Lockheed Martin and the outreach of Rutgers University to private industry through its economic development office.