A new committee has been formed in the state Assembly. The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee held its first formal meeting on Feb. 1. They will work to keep the state at the forefront of scientific innovation and entrepreneurship.

The committee is chaired by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset, a physicist and head of science education at Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory.

"What must the state do to improve? What must the state start to do? And, perhaps, what must the state stop doing so that we can make sure that jobs and innovation stay here in New Jersey?" he asked.

Zwicker says Jersey faces tough competitors such as California and Massachusetts.

"One of the things that this committee will look at is what is it going to take to make sure that, as we talk about next-generation jobs, next-generation technology, that the next generation of students and entrepreneurs are being created here in New Jersey."

Rebecca Perkins, of BIONJ, a biotechnology industry group, told the committee that drug development and production in New Jersey is 3.7 percent of the state's gross domestic product.

"The economic impact of this presence is more than $100 billion each year to New Jersey's output," she said.

"More than 350,000 people are employed, directly and indirectly, by the life sciences industry in New Jersey. That is more than 3,200 life sciences establishments across the state."

Dean J. Paranicas, president and CEO of the Health Care Institute of New Jersey, which represents 28 of the world's leading research-based biopharma medical technology companies, says "the "out-migration" of research and development was the key reason for the 2012 reorganization of higher education in the state.

"Hopefully, this will yield a more competitive life sciences innovation environment here," he said.

Also on the committee are Assemblymen James Kennedy; D-Union, Herb Conway Jr., D-Burlington; BettyLou Decroce, R-Morris; Christopher DePhillips, R-Bergen; and Tim Eustace, D-Bergen.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5