New Research and Innovation Hub to Open in Former Merck HQ in New Jersey
Pictured: Rendering of NEST development/company courtesy
What was once old is becoming new for the New Jersey life sciences industry. An R&D campus that formerly served as Merck’s global headquarters is now set to reopen and become the Northeast Science and Technology (NEST) Center in Kenilworth, NJ,14 miles outside of New York City, according to a May 25 announcement.
The project is backed by Machine Investment Group and Onyx Equities, a real estate investment firm that recently supplied a property to house J&J spinoff Kenvue’s global headquarters in Summit, NJ. John Saraceno, founder and managing partner of Onyx Equities and co-founder of NEST, will announce plans for the NEST campus at his booth at the BIO International Convention in Boston from June 5-8.
This move by Merck is part of an initiative announced in 2020 to consolidate its multiple offices across the state. Merck will still utilize part of the space as a tenant, an agreement that expires in 2026. As the pharma slowly moves out, the NEST team will lease the open space to other biopharma and tech companies.
Saraceno said though innovation hubs are not uncommon, NEST is different.
“It’s all about the infrastructure,” he told BioSpace. “The infrastructure here cannot be rivaled anywhere in the state, and in my opinion, it would be very difficult to rival this anywhere else in the country.”
The difference in NEST’s campus, he said, is that instead of being a new development or a renovation of an existing commercial space, the facility was created specifically to house one of the industry’s major players. The hub includes about 1.4 million square feet of laboratory space, 500,000 square feet of office space, 30 acres of developable land and a 25 mega-watt co-generation power plant.
“I don't think it can be overstated how unique an opportunity this is for a company," Saraceno said.
Also known as Pharm Country, the region is home to industry giants like J&J, Novartis and Pfizer. Saraceno said that initially, the hub will likely fill a gap in the state’s market)—room for the little guy.
“We understand that in incubation, to get larger, it needs to start smaller,” he said. “We have probably the most concentrated presence of large pharma in any state in the country. Where we have fallen behind is that we don't have the sort of VC and private equity, small incubator, 10 to 15,000 square foot-type users.”
Saraceno said that by the end of 2023, Merck will have vacated about 250,000 feet of space, which he is open to leasing out as soon as possible.
Rosemary Scott is an editor at BioSpace, focusing on the job market and career development for professionals in the life sciences. You can reach her at email@example.com and on LinkedIn.