The Genius State: Jersey’s Considerable Brainpower

The state has long been an incubator for inventors and entrepreneurs. From Thomas Edison to the modern pharmaceutical industry, New Jersey has flexed its brain muscles.

The Granger Collection.

THEN: Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, center, shows off his wax-cylinder phonograph while surrounded by his staff outside his West Orange laboratory, circa 1892. Edison’s sound-recording machine, unveiled in 1877, had two needles, one for recording and one for playback. Other inventions hatched in Edison’s lab (originally in Menlo Park) included the motion picture camera, universal stock ticker and an incandescent lightbulb that would burn for 40 hours.

Courtesy of PTC.

NOW: New Jersey remains an engine for innovation, although these days the buzz emanates from biopharmaceutical pioneers such as PTC Therapeutics in South Plainfield, where researchers focus on small molecule drugs used for therapeutic treatment of genetic disorders, infectious diseases and in the field of oncology. Although several large pharmaceutical firms have moved their research operations elsewhere, start-ups like PTC have blossomed in their wake. The state’s 340 biotech companies account for 16,400 jobs, an increase of 9.3 percent since 2010.

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