Renewing Nutley’s storied precincts

A disused medical research facility in Nutley, New Jersey, will find new life as the location of a soon-to-be-established medical school, bringing new science-based jobs to an area hard hit by large layoffs of scientifically and technically trained personnel. In 2012, we reported on plans by pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann-La Roche to close its Nutley research center, which for more than 80 years provided thousands of jobs to generations of scientists and other local residents. Advances made there include the benzodiazepines Valium and Librium, which heralded the advent of pharmaceutical psychiatry, and the tuberculosis drug isoniazid. Progress was also made there in molecular biology, oncology, and other fields. The company ceased its Nutley operation in 2013.

Now New Jersey’s Seton Hall University and Hackensack University Medical Center have announced plans to establish a new medical school on the old Roche site, bringing some medical research back to the storied precincts of the Nutley campus, or at least to 13 or 14 of its more than 100 acres. The school’s founding institutions are negotiating with Roche for a lease on part of the campus.

Now New Jersey’s Seton Hall Universityand Hackensack University Medical Center have announced plans to establish a new medical school on the old Roche site.

The new medical school “is a big deal, my friends. The consequences of this will be seen for years to come,” says Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. (D), who represents the Nutley area, as quoted by the news site Among the consequences for his constituents will likely be new jobs for scientifically trained locals, including faculty, technicians, lab managers, computer experts, and other personnel. The inaugural class may enter as soon as 2017.

There’s no way to know, of course, whether any of the new jobs will go to people laid off by Roche. Many, alas, have probably permanently joined the nation’s growing ranks of “disposable employees” with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics training. Many others, hopefully, have moved on to new and exciting careers. But for New Jersey’s substantial scientific labor force, which has been devastated by large pharma industry layoffs, this is at least a glimmer of light.

This isn’t the first time a disused pharma research facility has been taken over by an educational institution, nor is it the biggest. In 2007, Yale University bought a research campus from Bayer HealthCare AG that covers 136 acres and includes 550,000 square feet of laboratory space, along with 275,000 square feet of office space, and 600,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, as we reported at the time on the Science Careers blog. 

The new school, by the way, will be New Jersey’s second Seton Hall medical college. The first, founded in 1954 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, eventually became, through a circuitous process, part of Rutgers University’s New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

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