To the Editor: Teen Talk Needed

I am writing from HiTOPS, the 20-year-old youth health center in Princeton (www.hitops.org). I would like to commend U.S. 1 for its coverage of youth issues, particularly the October 24 issue on “Teens & Their Tribulations.” You have provided parents and others who work with youth very helpful and timely information.

I would also like to volunteer HiTOPS’ expertise in youth health when needed for your publication; we would be happy to contribute in whatever way makes sense.

Lori Heninger

Executive director, HiTOPS

Stem Cell Post Mortem

We are all disappointed certainly about the voters’ decision not to approve the stem cell initiative in the November 7 election. Although we are disappointed, as passage would have helped to enhance stem cell research projects currently underway and foster new projects, the vote is generally not seen as a vote against stem cell research.

Given that ballot question No. 1, which would have provided for property tax relief, also was not approved, pundits agree that the stem cell referendum was caught up in a general concern with the state’s economy. However, biotechnology, including stem cell research, is alive and well in New Jersey. Stem cell research will continue to be an important factor in New Jersey thanks to the efforts of public and private companies such as Celgene, the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology (NJSCT), and institutions such as Rutgers, NJIT, and others.

And while stem cell research is an important research tool, it is also important to remember that stem cell research is only one of a variety of approaches being used by New Jersey’s biotechnology community to fuel new discoveries. One of the strengths of New Jersey’s biotechnology industry is found in the diversity of the research going on in our companies.

New Jersey has already devoted considerable resources to stem cell research. NJCST has awarded millions for stem cell research and last fall legislation provided $270 million to build or expand stem cell research facilities in Allendale, Belleville, Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick.

New Jersey has devoted significant amounts of time, money and personnel to initiatives that support the growth of the biotechnology industry. A recent example of this support is the decision by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to authorize $11.5 million to fit out 38,000 square feet for wet lab space at the Technology Centre of New Jersey in North Brunswick for future tenants.

The EDA’s state-of-the-art Technology Centre is now home to more than 20 growing early-stage and established businesses that occupy almost 300,000 square feet of top-quality, customized, competitively priced laboratory, production, and office space.

In another example, the New Jersey Division of Investment (DOI) in August announced that the division has helped launch a new fund designed to strengthen the return on state pension funds through investment in growing companies, including biotechnology companies that are doing business in the Garden State. These investments, the first from a fund of this kind for the $80 billion pension portfolio, will be made through the recently created New Jersey Directed Investment Fund (NJDIF) — a new pool of private equity created with the specific purpose of seeking attractive investment returns by investing in growing New Jersey businesses.

New Jersey’s biotechnology industry is thriving and we believe it will continue to enjoy significant growth. In 1998 there were 80 biotechnology companies; today there are more than 235. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t receive a call from a company seeking to move to New Jersey, drawn by numerous factors that include the strength of our cluster, the presence of “big” pharma, supportive state programs and New Jersey’s social and cultural life, just to name a few.

Debbie Hart

President, BioNJ Inc.

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