The number of biotechnology companies operating in New Jersey rose to 300 this year from 238 in 2008, BioNJ said Friday.

The trade group for the state's biotechnology industry said the gain came even though there is continuing difficulty obtaining venture capital and other funding because of the slow economy.

Of the companies that responded to the group's survey, 78 percent said they intended to hire more employees in the next 12 months.

"From what we are seeing," Debbie Hart, president of BioNJ, said, "this growth is . . . a result of a number of factors, including the presence of a well-established life science industry and strong supporting infrastructure that includes economic incentive programs offered by state government."    - Paul Schweizer