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Grapevine: Roche eyes New Brunswick, bad news for Barnabas docs, ongoing developer's suit

By - Last modified: August 20, 2012 at 9:05 AM

Still serenading Roche

From Nutley to New Brunswick? Roche reportedly looked at a Matrix-owned site in New Brunswick for its translational and clinical research center, which it wants to put on the East Coast. The Hub City visit to the building, at George and New streets, occurred about three weeks ago, Grapevine has learned.

Matrix CEO Joe Taylor hosted the meeting with a lineup of heavy-hitters, including Dr. Peter Amenta, dean of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Kenneth Breslauer, the Rutgers dean of biological sciences and VP of health science partnerships; plus representatives of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Choose New Jersey, according to the source. The New Jersey Partnership for Action has reportedly been involved in trying to convince Roche to place the clinical research center in New Jersey, but Kim Guadagno was not at the meeting, the source said.

Massachusetts reportedly had been one state being considered, but a Roche spokeswoman confirmed last week that the company had narrowed its search to New Jersey and New York.

The Record reported last week that Roche wants the facility to be near a teaching hospital. A Roche spokeswoman last week declined to comment about specific sites for the facility, but said a decision is expected by the end of the month. The company also e-mailed a statement saying the proposed center "will support Roche's efforts to advance prospective drugs through clinical development, including managing clinical trials, shepherding drug development collaborations and nurturing relationships with U.S. regulatory authorities.

Therefore, our goal is to have to the center located close to existing drug development partners and in an environment where we can tap into the resources of small biotechnology companies, academic research laboratories and medical centers."

In late June, Roche announced it would close its 80-year-old Nutley operation, consolidating its research at sites in Germany and Switzerland, and shedding 1,000 jobs in the process.

When the closure is complete in late 2013, the company would have just 400 New Jersey employees, all located at a diagnostics center in Branchburg, if the research center is built in another state.

Cigna-ling a problem

Barnabas Health's president and CEO, Barry Ostrowsky, did confirm that Barnabas was leaving the Cigna provider network as of Oct. 1, but an additional detail has surfaced.

According to a source with knowledge of the contract negotiations, physicians with privileges at Barnabas Health were notified via letter from Cigna that if they did not have privileges outside of the Barnabas system, they, too, would be considered out of network at the end of the contract.

Cigna responded in a statement: "We are willing to continue discussions to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that provides fair and reasonable reimbursement, protects the interests of our clients and customers and ensures they have access to high-quality doctors and hospitals at a competitive cost."

Bayer bailed, but suit lives on

Bayer HealthCare may be preparing to make its move to Hanover, but a competing firm and prominent developer are still tied up in a lawsuit sparked by the drugmaker's aborted plan to move to Parsippany last year.

A source told Grapevine that Reckitt Benckiser, the household products maker, and SJP Properties are still in court over the developer's near deal last year with Bayer, which considered moving to an SJP-owned office park. That was until Reckitt, which already occupies the Parsippany campus, sued both firms in September to block the deal.

Bayer quickly cut bait, instead opting for the former Alcatel-Lucent campus in Hanover, prompting a judge to scrap the complaint against the German drug giant. But the suit between Reckitt and SJP is ongoing, focusing on whether the landlord should have legally given notice to its tenant about Bayer's impending move.

A source said attorneys for the two parties are expected to appear before a judge by late summer or early fall. Bayer, meanwhile, could start to move into its new home by the middle of next year.

In its initial complaint, Reckitt challenged zoning approvals from July that sanctioned Bayer's move to Morris Corporate Center IV, where the plaintiff has operated since 2002. The suit argued the move would have marginalized Reckitt's presence and turned a "bucolic office environment … into a security-laden, fortress-like setting that will be a monument to Bayer."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at

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