HealthCare Institute of New Jersey endeavors to ensure a favorable environment so that New Jersey remains at the center of global life science research.
HINJ has acted as a voice for New Jersey’s life sciences industry for over 20 years. How has the association developed alongside the industry?
Having earned the reputation as the ‘medicine chest of the world’, biopharmaceuticals is both the largest industry sector in New Jersey and one of the largest such clusters in the United States. HINJ was a response to the need to elevate awareness and advocate for a supportive environment that would nurture and enable our companies to continue to flourish here.
Of the top 20 research-based pharmaceutical companies in the world, 13 have their global, North American or U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, or at least have a substantial presence here. Including biopharma and medical technology, the industry generated about $109 billion in 2014 in direct and indirect economic impact–second only to California–and accounts for nearly 20% of New Jersey’s GDP. Because of this considerable impact, HINJ’s main goal is to ensure that the elements are in place for New Jersey to continue to be a life sciences leader.
What makes New Jersey an attractive and competitive investment destination amid increasing trends to pursue cheaper costs?
The key consideration for life sciences companies is the total value proposition we offer. New Jersey possesses high value elements: the infrastructure and transportation system are terrific; it is proximate to the major capital markets in the United States; it has a highly educated, very skilled workforce; great research universities; tremendous cultural appeal, and an extremely well-developed network of goods and service providers that can support the industry locally. For all these reasons, in addition to manufacturing, R&D and distribution, New Jersey is also home to many companies’ core functions. These companies also benefit from being proximate to each other–they collaborate and interact, which has advanced medical innovation globally while producing an experienced workforce locally from which to draw.
How has the industry in New Jersey developed from a regulatory standpoint?
The FDA remains the global gold standard of industry review, with ever-growing accountability. 25 years ago, it was recognized that Congressional appropriations were insufficient, so a user fee structure was established that has grown in five-year increments to meet the increasing demand, and is up for renewal in 2017. Also, the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in December 2016, provides a large supplemental appropriation to the National Institutes of Health to enable more of the core research that it does.
In what ways has the focus shifted in terms of R&D and innovation?
The most significant development in recent years in New Jersey has been the continuing maturation of our innovation ecosystem, which relies on the public, private and academic sectors coalescing to enable the success of innovator industries. As a result of the merger of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) with Rutgers University, we now have a real research powerhouse. Coupled with the emergence of Rowan University in the southern part of the state and its acquisition of the UMDNJ medical school in southern New Jersey, we have two public research universities focusing on the life sciences.
These consolidations are starting to gain traction now, and we have seen increasing engagement and collaboration with the life sciences industry, providing better clinical approaches for patients as well as institutions around the state. There also is the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), which created a 501(c)(3) organization a few years ago called the New Jersey Innovation Institute, to provide innovative solutions to innovator industries, including the life sciences.
Particularly in light of the country’s recent political transition, how will the industry need to adapt going forward?
Health care policy in the United States will evolve, but the changes and their outcome are in early 2017 still uncertain and very much under active discussion.. Ultimately, however, our companies have the capabilities and resilience to adapt because they will always continue to innovate. Innovation is our life blood, and the industry will keep pushing, trying to find the next cure, the next treatment. We have had some real paradigm shifts; we are now seeing cures for diseases, in addition to treatments. In any event, the priority and focus must continue to be the welfare of the patient.
Do you have a final message regarding New Jersey’s life sciences industry?
The future of the industry in New Jersey remains bright and the signs are encouraging. We continue to see investment and commitments to the state, which is indicative of its core strength as a life sciences venue of choice. It is vital in the current environment that the value of medical innovation, both to human health and to areas such as health care spending and positive economic impact, continues to be recognized.