Rutgers University has cemented its plan for a new medical school and research facility in the heart of New Brunswick.
Rutgers Health at the HELIX will be the new one-campus home to Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a Rutgers translational research facility equipped with a variety of labs to advance the work of 80 research teams.
Construction will begin this spring on the first of three buildings in the New Jersey Health + Life Science Exchange, or HELIX, a public-private development planned in downtown New Brunswick, following approval Tuesday by the Rutgers University Board of Trustees.
The trustees’ consent followed the Rutgers Board of Governors’ Feb. 27 approval of a tentative funding plan for Rutgers’ portion of the HELIX, an estimated $567 million.
“Rutgers Health at the HELIX will transform and affirm to the world the core value of Rutgers’ research and medical education enterprise,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said in a statement. “Imagine: We will be educating new generations of medical students alongside cutting-edge laboratories and researchers – in the same space where we collaborate with our colleagues at Princeton and businesses, including the two largest hospital systems in the state. It will be an epicenter of health innovation.”
The Rutgers’ portion of the $732 million first HELIX building will be paid largely through $200 million of federal American Rescue Plan funds provided by the state and approximately $190 million in tax credits administered through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority Aspire program, according to university officials. Rutgers will finance the remaining $180 million of the cost through tax-exempt and taxable bonds, university officials said.
The HELIX, formerly known as the New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub, will be developed by the New Brunswick Development Corporation on a site across from the New Brunswick train station and is designed as an innovation center providing businesses, universities and researchers critical space to work, learn, experiment and collaborate. State-of-the art laboratories, offices, work and learning spaces will come together in the first, 12-story building to foster research, treatment and business breakthroughs.
Planning for the complex began several years ago when Gov. Phil Murphy first proposed in 2017 a hub to invigorate the state’s innovation economy. Officials broke ground at the site in October 2021 and announced the relocation of Rutgers’ medical school. Princeton University, RWJBarnabas Health and Hackensack Meridian Health also have committed to the site.
Since then, the pandemic reinforced the need for continued groundbreaking health and medical research while a Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences master plan set a new standard for excellence in health sciences education, research and patient care, said Antonio Calcado, Rutgers executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“We have arrived at a place that not only will bring the New Jersey innovation hub to fruition, but we will also significantly improve Rutgers’ standing in the delivery of medical education while transforming what translational research looks like,” Calcado said in a statement.
Translational research, often referred to as bench-to-bedside research, turns laboratory discoveries into new ways to improve health care and medical treatment.
The three-year construction project will support more than 7,000 jobs and generate about $83 million in local, county and state tax revenues, according to university officials. Once completed, the HELIX is projected to produce approximately $880 million in economic activity annually in the state, including supporting about 4,500 jobs, according to an economic impact report on the project.
“With the boards’ approval, we will begin to bring together higher education institutions, health systems and the life sciences industry to revolutionize clinical and translational research – turning our groundbreaking research into care and cures,” said Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom in a statement.
“Moving the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School into one state-of-the-art campus will improve medical students’ experience through holistic medical education and opportunities for clinical experiences in all four years of medical school,” Strom added.