The Broad Hollow Bioscience Park on the Farmingdale State College campus on...

The Broad Hollow Bioscience Park on the Farmingdale State College campus on Route 110. Credit: Barry Sloan

It's easy to celebrate the hopes and successes of Long Island industries. It's much harder to overcome the disappointments and failures.

The Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, and Long Island's larger efforts to build a biotechnology industry, have had a lot of both.

This month's announcement that Estée Lauder will serve as Broad Hollow's latest anchor tenant, filling much of it with research labs and office space and 31 new employees, is welcome news. But can the current hopeful moment rise above the disappointments that have come before?

The region has been trying to get this right for a long time.

At a Long Island Life Sciences Summit in 2003, which featured promising chatter about creating a vibrant life sciences industry, one young company stood out. Helicon Therapeutics, focused on cognition and memory, had made its home at the relatively new research park at Farmingdale State College in East Farmingdale. Then-chief executive John Tallman talked of spending a couple of years at the park's incubator and growing from there. "It takes time and you have to be patient," Tallman said back then.

Alongside Helicon was anchor tenant OSI Pharmaceuticals — the Island's most promising biotech firm, around which the region hoped to build an industry.

But for Long Island, neither story ended well. In 2008, Helicon left Long Island for San Diego after its Broad Hollow expansion efforts were stymied. A year later, OSI left for Westchester County.

Since then, the Island never really found its biotech footing. The region has lost other companies large and small and hasn't built the desired "critical mass." And the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park's main building — which OSI once occupied — was empty for years.

As in the early OSI days, Estée Lauder's move marks another moment of possibility. The cosmetic giant plans to do research and develop new products in the Broad Hollow space. But the Island has to capitalize on that, by filling the rest of the bioscience park with other smaller companies, wooing a broad array of life sciences firms to the region, utilizing Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's resources, and connecting with and building off the industry that's emerging in New York City.

But the past has taught us it won't be easy. It'll take strong state and regional leadership, a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, scientists and advocates working together. It'll take nurturing and cajoling and incentivizing. It'll take the right partnerships and management at Broad Hollow, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Farmingdale State College, and others.

We can't have another two decades of starts and stops. Use the five years in Estée Lauder's deal to try everything to build and grow the industry, solidifying the pieces that exist and adding new ones. If at that point Estée Lauder is ready to stay and grow, and others have joined, perhaps the Island will have an industry finally ready to thrive.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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