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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-The New Jersey EDA has approved $9.2 million in predevelopment funding for a proposed stem cell research center here. The facility will be the centerpiece of a larger $270-million biomed program authorized under legislation signed by Gov. Jon Corzine in late 2006.

“These grants are more than just a disbursement of funds,” Corzine says in a statement. “They are also an important first step in our growing partnership with private industry to fund this promising and potentially life-saving science.” The funding is also part of the Corzine administration’s Edison Innovation Fund, an element of the governor’s economic growth strategy for the state.

The predevelopment funds will kick off the design, engineering and other preconstruction requirements for the Stem Cell Institute, which will account for $150 million of the $270 million approved by the legislature and governor. Tentative plans call for a 16-story research tower on this city’s Little Albany St., a site currently used as a surface parking lot and owned by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and RWJ Property Holding Co.

The site’s owners have also signed a letter of intent to ground lease it to the New Brunswick Development Corp. (DEVCO), which will develop the facility. Partners in the operation of the completed Institute, which calls for seven floors of research facilities atop a nine-story parking deck, are the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University.

“The predevelopment funds are intended to allow projects to progress to the next phase, and to assist them in completion of the full and final application,” says NJ EDA CEO Caren Franzini. “The full application will require projects to submit an operational plan and complete construction budget as required by the legislation.”

Besides the Stem Cell Institute, the $270-million package also covers stem cell research facilities at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark ($50 million) and a biomed research center in Camden operated by Rutgers, the Coriell Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Cancer Institute of NJ ($50 million). Also planned are a $10-million cancer center in Belleville and a stem cell-related program in Allendale, also $10 million.

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