Construction will begin this spring on Rutgers Health at the HELIX, the first of three buildings in the New Jersey Health + Life Science Exchange in downtown New Brunswick. (Rendering courtesy of Rutgers)
Plans have been under way for several years for the New Jersey Innovation + Technology Hub (HELIX), part of which will include a new Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School building in New Brunswick, N.J.
The school announced March 21 that construction will finally start later this spring on the first of three buildings that will be part of the Hub, one of which will be the new home of the medical school.
The trio of buildings that make up the Hub is being strongly pushed by Gov. Phil Murphy. It will be built across the street from the New Brunswick train station in what is currently an empty lot.
The HELIX, which will be developed by the New Brunswick Development Corp., is designed as an innovation center providing businesses, universities and researchers critical space to work, learn, experiment and collaborate.
When completed by 2026, the HELIX will be made up of medical facilities for Rutgers, Princeton University, Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health in downtown New Brunswick, according to Patch, the local online news service.
The project also will include public health labs.
Rutgers said that its 12-story Robert Wood Johnson Medical School will be the first to be built at the HELIX and will feature modern laboratories, offices and work and learning spaces "to foster research, treatment and business breakthroughs."
"Rutgers Health at the HELIX will transform and affirm to the world the core value of Rutgers' research and medical education enterprise," President Jonathan Holloway said March 21. "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 the two largest hospital systems in the state. It will be an epicenter of health innovation."
Planning for the public-private complex began when Murphy first proposed "The Hub" in 2017.
The construction of the RWJ Medical School comes after its approval by the Rutgers University Board of Trustees in mid-March and consent by the school's Board of Governors to a tentative funding plan, which includes one-time state funds and tax credits.
The estimated cost of the first HELIX building is $732 million, with the Rutgers portion estimated to be $567 million. The latter will be paid primarily 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.
Rutgers will finance the remaining $180 million of the cost through tax-exempt and taxable bonds.
Building Effort Likely to Support More Than 7,000 Jobs
Since 2020, the pandemic reinforced the need for continued groundbreaking health and medical research while a Rutgers Biomedical and Health Science primary plan set a new standard for excellence in health sciences education, research and patient care, explained Antonio Calcado, its 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," he said.
Calcado noted that translational research — often referred to as bench-to-bedside research — turns laboratory discoveries into new ways to improve health care and medical treatment.
The complex will be home to a new translational research facility equipped with a variety of labs to advance the work of 80 research teams and put into practice health innovations that will improve individual and public health, the university announced.
Rutgers Health at the HELIX also will have a significant operational and economic impact within the city of New Brunswick, as well as free existing Rutgers space for academic, clinical and research expansion, and bolster the university's role as a research and economic innovation leader in the region, Calcado said.
The three-year construction project will support more than 7,000 jobs and generate about $83 million in local, county and state tax revenues. 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. "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."
Today's top stories