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Florida Bill Proposes Jackson Lab Contribute More Funds to New Site

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory is balking at a Florida lawmaker's proposal that it spend $330 million of its own money, in addition to the $120 million private fundraising campaign it envisions, toward its planned development of a third campus near Naples — in return for receiving hundreds of millions in incentive dollars from the State of Florida and the county where the facility would be built.

State Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, has introduced an incentive measure for Jackson Lab as an earmark amendment to the state Senate's draft of Florida's budget bill for the fiscal year starting July 1. The amendment by Richter would have Florida spend $50 million for the laboratory in the coming fiscal year, the first of a three-year, $130 million state piece of the funding package he envisions for the project.

Collier County would match Florida's $130 million in incentive spending, according to the budget amendment — which is similar to an amendment expected to be offered in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples. The House is set to vote on its version of the state budget on Thursday.

But Richter's proposal also envisions Jackson Lab shelling out $330 million in grants and revenues, in addition to what the laboratory expects to raise privately through supporters in the Naples region.

However, Jackson Lab envisioned receiving slightly more from the state and county than proposed by Richter — namely "something in the neighborhood of" $150 million from each level of government, in addition to the $120 million in private fundraising, Michael Hyde, Jackson Lab's vice president for advancement and external relations, told GenomeWeb Daily News yesterday.

"This is a project that's going to require $300 [million] to $400 million in investment during the first 10 years of its operation. It's not feasible for the Jackson Laboratory to consider funding anything of that magnitude, any more than it would have been feasible for Scripps [Research Institute] to come up with $500 million for their project," Hyde said. "This is a project that would be financed by a combination of state allocation, local match, and private philanthropy."

At deadline, neither Richter nor an aide had returned messages from GWDN. Under Richter's proposal, Florida would fund its share of the package by allocating money to its Innovation Incentive Fund for the first time since 2008.

How the county would raise its share of funds has yet to be determined.

"While we do know that the local match will come from a number of sources, including land donation, no firm plans for the match will be created until after the Legislature has made its decision," Dolly Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development Council of Collier County, told GWDN. "This effort is a long way from completion."

Roberts and Hyde spoke four days after Richter disclosed his incentive package proposal, as well as details of where the Jackson Lab's proposed Naples-area facility would be located, to members of the state Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means.

In an interview, Hyde said the facility would be built within part of a 700-acre section of the 4,000-acre Ave Maria, Fla., mixed-use, master-planned community. The land is now owned by Barron Collier Cos., which has co-developed Ave Maria with Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

"As contrasted with almost any other site that we know of, this would be a site where construction could start very soon" — a key factor in why the site is attractive to the laboratory, Hyde said. He noted that the site has already undergone zoning approvals following federal and state permitting reviews, and is near infrastructure.

Jackson Lab envisions opening in Florida a new institute specializing in personalized medicine. Details of the research program are under discussion by the laboratory's scientific staff. "I think that discussion is likely to continue for a while," Hyde said.

Back in January, Jackson Lab's President and CEO, Richard Woychick, told GWDN, "It's important as part of our growth strategy to make sure that we position ourselves to get closer to the bedside and do more translational and clinical work. We've done this through collaborations in the past, but the Florida opportunity could be the chance for us to become more directly translational in the nature of the work we do."

According to Hyde, the new personalized medicine institute would employ about 200 people, an employment level not expected to be reached until three to four years after the facility opened. Jackson Lab accounts for about half of the 400 jobs expected to be created during the laboratory's first year of operation — a figure that includes construction jobs and indirect jobs generated by the project.

"There will be very tight linkages between the activity in Florida and the research activities of our staff here in Bar Harbor. You'd see a lot of collaboration, and travel back and forth, but relatively few transfers," Hyde told GWDN. "My guess is it would be a relative handful of people from Maine. We see it as an opportunity to expand into some areas of genomics and computational biology that we'd like to expand into."

Researchers from Jackson Lab specializing in eye disease have a multi-institution collaboration in place that includes a Florida partner, the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. Jackson Lab also has held talks with several potential Florida collaboration partners, including universities and research institutes, Hyde said, though he declined to name them.

"We've had very, very positive receptions from all of them. I think that we would bring a new set of skills and a new scientific slant to the mix of research that's going on in Florida," Hyde added. "We don't have any contractual agreements, but we have had some very interesting discussions, and I'm quite confident that those collaborations will emerge as the project goes forward."

Indirect jobs — such as workers at institutions, spinout companies, and stores and restaurants — account for most of roughly 7,500 total jobs, and total $835 million annually in direct and indirect economic impact, anticipated over a decade as a result of the Jackson Lab project and a nearby research park expected to be filled in part by spinout companies, according to an economic study carried out for the project by Washington Economic Group of Coral Gables, Fla.

The laboratory disclosed its search for a Florida site last October. Hyde said Jackson Lab is attracted to Florida because of its availability of multi-million-dollar government incentives to research institutions, the presence of other potential collaboration partners, the ongoing effort by Naples and Collier County officials to build a life sciences cluster, and the attractiveness of the region to researchers and other potential hires.

"There's an enormously great quality of life available in Florida that we think will be a great boost to recruiting, and a complement to what we have in Bar Harbor," Hyde said.

But Hyde also noted that Jackson Lab remains committed to maintaining and growing its headquarters campus in Bar Harbor, Maine, while also growing in Florida. In addition, the laboratory also operates a facility in Sacramento, Calif., where a $40 million expansion was completed last year.

Jackson Lab hopes to join the parade of out-of-state research institutes that have won more than $1 billion in subsidies toward infrastructure and other economic incentives for the development of campuses in Florida. Those research centers include Scripps Research Institute, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Max Planck Florida Institute, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, and Oregon Health & Science University's Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute.

Hyde noted that these institutes were not required to offer any money of their own, while Jackson Lab plans to chip in $120 million through its fundraising campaign, the feasibility of which is being studied by a consulting firm recently hired by the lab.

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