Roche to close N.J. pharmaceutical plant, shed 1,000 jobs

Roche Holding has announced plans to close its plant in Nutley, N.J., by the end of next year resulting in the loss of a thousand jobs. It’s the latest setback for New Jersey’s once dominant pharmaceutical industry.

About 10 years ago, 42,000 people were employed by pharmaceutical companies in the Garden State. That workforce accounted for 20 percent of all the jobs in that industry in the nation. Now, New Jersey has just 13 percent.

“New Jersey was the center of the universe when pharmaceutical research was based on chemistry,” says James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers. “But the cutting-edge research now is really biology-based pharma, biopharma and the like.”

Hughes says companies moved their research to California and the Boston area to be near university centers specializing in life sciences.

He says the planned reorganization of New Jersey’s higher education system to boost biomedical research could help prevent the loss of even more pharmaceutical jobs.

“It may not reverse the tide completely, but I think it will make the state more competitive to keep the pharma that we have and even grow it in the future,” Hughes said. “Lacking that, then I think we’re in a long-term problem area.”

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