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N.J. must 'get into the competition' for pharma jobs, Bausch & Lomb CEO says

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Brent Saunders, chief executive of Bausch & Lomb, says New Jersey needs to focus its attention on pharma jobs moving out of the state. He spoke at Fairleigh Dickinson University. (Photo courtesy of W. Scott Giglio)
Brent Saunders, chief executive of Bausch & Lomb, says New Jersey needs to focus its attention on pharma jobs moving out of the state. He spoke at Fairleigh Dickinson University. (Photo courtesy of W. Scott Giglio)

Much attention has focused lately on pharma jobs moving out of state, and this is an issue New Jersey should address, Brent Saunders, chief executive of eye care giant Bausch & Lomb, said today before a speech at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison

States compete for pharma jobs and "If I were giving New Jersey some advice it is: get into the competition. Don't just assume because you have it today it will be here tomorrow."

New Jersey's status as a global drug industry hub played a key role in Bausch & Lomb's decision to put its pharmaceutical division in Madison more than four years ago.

Saunders said of New Jersey, "For a pharmaceutical company, it's the best place in the world to be. It is the medicine cabinet of America; the talent level here in New Jersey is fantastic." Because it is home to so many drug companies, the state provides "a great source of talent but it also gives you great sources of partnerships." He said the company often looks to recruit "People with experience—in clinical trials or research or statistics or what have you. We find there is no issue finding talent in New Jersey."

Bausch & Lomb's global pharmaceuticals leadership team, including the people who manage new drug clinical trials all over the world, is based in Madison. Bausch & Lomb has received some tax incentives, but they were not the primary reason for the company choosing New Jersey as the headquarters for its pharmaceuticals division, according to a company spokesman. Saunders, who became CEO in 2010, said: "We came for the talent and the location. We are very committed to New Jersey, and we will continue to grow and expand in New Jersey."

With about 170 corporate staff in New Jersey, the pharma division of Bausch & Lomb has annual revenue of more than $1.2 billion and growth in the mid to high teens: Saunders called pharma "the locomotive of growth for Bausch & Lomb."

During his speech, Saunders described the effort he is leading to move new products more quickly from the research lab to the market. The problem, he said, was that researchers "were incentivized to toil away on research projects that had little or no chance of ever becoming products." He said this has been replaced by a new "patient centered product flow" approach. "We encourage our teams to scour the globe for new ideas and innovations that we can develop into real products. Whether by new partnerships, acquisitions or licensing, we make sure our scientist have lots of ways to bring a product to market quickly." He said the result is that the company's innovation pipeline is now the strongest it has been in its 160-year history.

Headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., Bausch & Lomb makes a wide range of eye care products including contact lenses, pharmaceuticals and surgical instruments.

Correction appended: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Bausch & Lomb had not received any tax incentives.

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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