Location and vocation: Why New Jersey is the next hub of life science innovation

Updated on January 29, 2024

There are a few examples of place and profession being intrinsically intertwined. Detroit is synonymous with the auto industry. Los Angeles is famous for making people famous. Those who aim to shake hands, kiss babies, and influence policy head to Washington DC. Las Vegas equals casinos, and Nashville is synonymous with country music.

It has been widely accepted that Boston and its intellectual neighbor, Cambridge, are the nation’s nucleus of the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry. After all, the area is home to over one thousand biotechnology companies, and several prestigious universities which provide a steady stream of researchers, scientists, and innovators. Throw in a few billion dollars of tax incentives and multi-level government funding, and it’s easy to understand how Beantown became a biotechnology hub.

While there’s no reason to believe Boston’s epicenter status is coming to an abrupt end, as an expert in the life sciences commercial real estate business, I can confidently posit that it’s fair to suggest there’s a viable alternative. I’ve spent the last 15+ years acquiring, building, leasing, and selling life science, medical office, industrial, and mixed-use commercial properties. Here’s why I think New Jersey is the next “it” location for those in the biotechnology field.

Existing state-of-the art facilities and infrastructure

New Jersey has a deep history of being the cradle of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the United States, and is currently home to over 3,000 such companies — 46 of which are responsible for 70 new FDA drug approvals. The area also boasts a significant number of clinical research organizations, contract development manufacturing organizations, universities with leading medical and research programs, and other professionals including lawyers, accountants, and construction firms specializing in the life sciences industry. Even better, there’s a favorable supply of purpose-built life science real estate and office space crafted by the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world who spared no expense in their construction. In 2023, the Northeast Science and Technology (NEST) Center was announced as a reimagined 100+ acre campus at the site of  Merck’s former global headquarters Kenilworth, New Jersey. The research and development campus offers over two-million square feet of existing facilities, including laboratory and bio manufacturing buildings, as well as redevelopment opportunities. Space on the NEST campus was superiorly built by Merck and is ideal to be leased by a wide array of life science, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies. Additional mixed-use campuses in the state, such as HELIX and On3, have also tapped into tenant demand  by offering life science-specific leasing opportunities.

Tri-state talent

According to a 2023 U.S. Life Sciences Research Talent report by CB Richard Ellis, (CBRE), New York and New Jersey has one of the country’s highest percentages of life science researchers compared to the total labor force in the region. In fact, there are more scientists and engineers per square mile in New Jersey than any other state. New York and New Jersey also experienced a 26 percent above average rate of growth in the total number of life science researchers between 2017-2022. It’s likely not surprising then that New York and New Jersey produced almost 9,000 biological and biomedical sciences graduates in 2021 — the highest number in the country. Nearby universities and research institutions deserve credit for this statistic, and the fact that more New Jersey and New York residents hold STEM degrees than anywhere else in the nation.

Innovation incentives

Boston isn’t the only region that provides incentives for companies on the cutting-edge of life-science innovation. New Jersey offers a long list of incentive programs that make the region competitive and primed for growth. For example, the state’s Economic Development Authority’s Innovation Evergreen Fund raises money for growing companies by auctioning tax credits to businesses. The New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology  is also focused on  facilitating growth by ensuring industry/academia collaboration. Other incentives include, but are not limited to, the Edison Innovation Fund, and the NJ Ignite and NJ Accelerate programs.

Location, location, location

The golden rule in real estate has always been location, location, location. And when it comes to quality of life, the Garden State comes up roses. New Jersey was recently ranked the fifth happiest state in America, largely due to its low crime rate, access to nature (hello, beaches!), booming job market, and proximity to New York City and Philadelphia and their respective deep academic and financial institutions. A well-designed public transportation system reduces the stress of any commute and amplifies cultural opportunities. For example, the NEST campus is roughly 14 miles from downtown Manhattan, making a night out in New York City easily accessible.  

Given its rich history of innovation, superior lab and manufacturing building stock, and deep talent pool, New Jersey has all the key ingredients for a thriving national scale life science ecosystem and is a market that is poised for substantial growth in the near future.  

Jonathan Scheinberg
Jonathan Scheinberg
Managing Principal and Founder at Outshine Properties

Jonathan Scheinberg is the Managing Principal and Founder of Outshine Properties, a leading real estate investment and development firm specializing in the life science, medical office, and technology industries.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Jonathan has played a pivotal role in the acquisition, construction, leasing, and sale of a diverse portfolio of properties, including the Northeast Science and Technology Center (NEST) campus in Kenilworth, NJ, which Outshine Properties co-owns along with Onyx Equities. Jonathan has managed more than seven-million square feet of commercial real estate space across the US since entering the commercial real estate industry in the early 2000s.

In his role as a co-owner of the NEST campus, Jonathan is responsible for developing strategy for renovations and leasing office and R&D space to leading life science companies. By overseeing the leasing process and actively engaging with key stakeholders, Jonathan is positioning the NEST campus as a dynamic and sought-after space for both established and emerging players in the industry.