Rutgers approval clears way for medical school, research center at HELIX

Jessica Perry//March 23, 2023//

Rutgers approval clears way for medical school, research center at HELIX

Jessica Perry//March 23, 2023//

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Following approval by the Rutgers University board of trustees, shovels will hit the ground this spring on the first of three buildings in the transformative New Jersey Health + Life Science Exchange coming to New Brunswick, better known as HELIX.

The March 21 clearance from the board of trustees follows last month’s approval from the Board of Governors for a tentative $567 million funding plan covering the school’s contribution to the public-private endeavor that will house the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a Rutgers translational research facility.

Funding also includes a $200 million state appropriation from American Rescue Plan dollars and $367 million of long-term debt, of which state authorized tax credits – under the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Aspire program – will amortize approximately $190 million. Rutgers said it will finance the remaining $180 million of the cost through tax-exempt and taxable bonds.

Over all, the HELIX effort is estimated to cost $732 million.

Rendering for Rutgers Health at HELIX in New Brunswick.
Rendering for Rutgers Health at HELIX in New Brunswick. – RUTGERS UNIVERSITY

New Brunswick Development Corp. will develop the project, located across the street from the New Brunswick train station, which is due for $49 million in upgrades.

When that work was announced last fall, Christopher Paladino, president of DEVCO, which is involved with both projects, said that the “Modernization of the New Brunswick Train Station will energize the transformative development taking place directly adjacent to the Northeast Corridor, making the N.J. Innovation HUB and Rutgers Cancer Institute accessible to researchers, patients, employees and visitors from Boston to Washington, D.C.”

According to Rutgers, HELIX’s first building will feature 12 stories of state-of-the-art laboratories, offices, and work and learning spaces.

The research facility will offer a variety of labs to advance work from 80 research teams, allowing them to put health innovations into practice to improve both individual and public health.

“Rutgers Health at the HELIX will transform and affirm to the world the core value of Rutgers’ research and medical education enterprise,” President Jonathan Holloway said in a statement. “Imagine: We will be educating new generations of medical students alongside cutting-edge laboratories and researchers – in the same space where we collaborate with our colleagues at Princeton [University] and businesses, including the two largest hospital systems in the state. It will be an epicenter of health innovation.”

Those hospital systems are Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health.

According to Rutgers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Antonio Calcado, the project will be a boon not just to the university, but to the city of New Brunswick, as well.

Citing an economic impact report on the project, Rutgers said the three-year construction endeavor will support more than 7,000 jobs and generate approximately $83 million in local, county and state tax revenues. Upon completion, HELIX is expected to produce about $880 million in annual economic activity in New Jersey and support approximately 4,500 jobs.

“With the boards’ approval, we will begin to bring together higher education institutions, health systems and the life sciences industry to revolutionize clinical and translational research – turning our groundbreaking research into care and cures,” Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom said, adding, “Moving the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School into one state-of-the-art campus will improve medical students’ experience through holistic medical education and opportunities for clinical experiences in all four years of medical school.”