A booming Celgene grabs Merck's abandoned campus in New Jersey

The Summit, NJ, campus--formerly Merck's and now Celgene's--Courtesy of the City of Summit

Fresh off a landmark $1 billion deal to buy into Juno's immuno-oncology pipeline, fast-growing Celgene ($CELG) has inked another contract to buy up Merck's ($MRK) sprawling old campus in Summit, NJ.

According to a statement, Celgene, which is already based in Summit, is taking over an abandoned biopharma campus at 556 Morris Ave. that includes 450,000 square feet of R&D space and 850,000 square feet of administrative space. Merck announced back in 2013 that it was giving up the complex and moving to Kenilworth in a company-wide reorganization aimed at slashing the payroll.

Celgene is getting a new facility that comes complete with a cafeteria that can serve 900 people at a time, a 10,000-square-foot "state-of-the-art" fitness center, with facilities for manufacturing, chemistry and more.

Celgene evidently needs the added space. The Big Biotech is already adding 500,000 square feet of added space just down the street at its 86 Morris Avenue campus. At the end of 2014 Celgene had 6,012 full-time employees on the payroll, with 2,101 in R&D. That's up by more than 900 from the end of 2013. And more hiring this year will soak up additional biopharma talent in the region.

Celgene CEO Bob Hugin

"Summit is an ideal strategic location for Celgene," says Celgene CEO Bob Hugin in a statement, "convenient to both the New Jersey and New York City talent pools." 

The news is a clear coup for New Jersey, which has been buffeted by the contrary winds in the industry. Roche, for example, pulled out of its complex in Nutley at a time when the state was seeing a steady Big Pharma migration into big hubs like Boston/Cambridge and the Bay Area in the U.S. as well as Cambridge, U.K., and Basel, Switzerland. And the changeover in control of the real estate helps illustrate the tectonic shift underway in the industry as Big Pharma struggles with lost franchises while a confident, aggressive set of Big Biotechs comes on strong.

"We are extremely pleased that our work to create a business-friendly environment for our largest corporate citizen has resulted in Celgene reinvesting and expanding here in Summit," noted Summit Common Council President Dr. Robert Rubino in a statement. "As Celgene continues to develop its role as an integral investor in our community, more jobs will be created locally and our downtown and area businesses will benefit as well."