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Officials offer prescription to revive N.J.'s research image

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New Jersey may be known as the “Medicine Chest of the World,” but the Garden State has been challenged in recent years as other regions have established reputations as high-tech corridors with top-notch universities serving as the nuclei for industry clusters.

Tracye McDaniel, head of the business recruitment nonprofit Choose New Jersey, said the Garden State has significant resources for life sciences firms, but also said the state needs to bolster its image by promoting its high-tech strengths.

"It's a lot of rebranding and explaining what we currently have and understanding our assets," she said.

That process involves getting the right people to the table to collaborate on the rebranding, said McDaniel, which is happening now in New Jersey. She said the merger of Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey will help.

AARON HOUSTON

Christopher J. Molloy, interim provost for biomedical and health sciences at Rutgers, said the merger gives the school an opportunity to reinvent itself and re-tell its story. Molloy spent nearly two decades in the pharmaceutical industry, working for giants including Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"I'd also say this about Boston and California," he said. "There's no question there are outstanding research and educational institutions in both places. But you know from my experience in industry, they are not necessarily so user-friendly out there."

Rutgers officials concede that in the past they weren't the easiest university to work with either. But Debbie Hart, president of the biotech trade group BioNJ said the university is improving its partnership capabilities with the merger. The trick, she said, will be getting life sciences companies to give the school a second look.

"(The challenge) will be telling that story and again, marketing it within New Jersey and making sure that companies know that this opportunity exists and that in fact it will be easier," she said. "If you have tried with Rutgers before, please look at them again."

E-mail to: jaredk@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @jaredkaltwasser

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