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Jackson Lab Eyes 2011 Launch of Florida Translational Genetics Research Institute

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory expects to open its planned translational genetics research institute next year with a temporary facility that will give way two years later to a permanent campus near Naples, Fla., according to a business plan submitted this week to officials in Florida's Collier County.

Jackson Lab's temporary facility will house 24 employees, the plan disclosed, including "at least one" senior principal investigator in each research area — comparative genetics and bioinformatics/computational biology. That number will grow to 25 senior PIs by the time the permanent facility opens in 2013, Michael Hyde, Jackson Lab's vice president for advancement and external relations, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

By 2020, Jackson Lab expects its total workforce to grow to 244 employees, of whom more than half will hold administrative jobs and the rest scientific positions.

Those and other plans connected with the institute are tied, however, to an economic incentive package that has the state of Florida and Collier County each giving Jackson Lab $130 million, with the laboratory raising another $120 million on its own through a philanthropic campaign.

Collier officials are expected next week to announce details of the county's proposal for raising its share of the funding package. While the Board of County Commissioners is expected to decide on the package by late next month, at least one piece of Collier's funding has been determined: Up to $5 million can be set aside as the value of the 50 acres that would be donated by developer Barron Collier Cos. to Jackson Lab for the 165,000-square-foot permanent facility, which will focus on personalized medicine.

"It will house wet labs and bioinformatics and computational biology dry labs, along with a small vivarium that can be built out as needed for different genetic model organisms," Jackson Lab said in the business plan. "Cutting-edge scientific equipment planned for the facility may include high-throughput genome sequencers and metabolomic and proteomic mass spectrometry equipment among others."

The Florida campus will also include an auditorium, a conference center, and visiting scientist lab and office space.

"Development of the facility will echo that of Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm, taking the same modular approach to building research facilities whereby form follows research growth and function, as needed," according to the plan.

Jackson Lab's information technology facilities in Florida, the laboratory said, will include close to a quarter petabyte of usable storage, more than 800 cores of high-performance computational capacity, and 10 gigabit network connectivity to its headquarters campus in Bar Harbor, Me., as well as to national and international research networks.

"The permanent facility will include a data center that will offer petascale infrastructure upon its commissioning and will scale to dozens of petabytes and tens of thousands of computational cores over 10 years, while ensuring high availability and security commensurate with work involving human subjects," the laboratory stated.

But first, Jackson Lab plans to establish a temporary site of between 12,000 and 15,000 square feet, set to house administrative staff and bioinformatics and computational biology faculty and services staff.

"Several locations are under consideration," with a lease yet to be signed, Hyde said. "We hope to start a lease this fall, but a specific date is unknown. There are too many variables to name a date."

Using some of the government cash, Jackson Lab expects its Florida operating revenue to spike from nearly $11 million this year to $47 million in 2011 and $79 million in 2012, according to the 17-page business plan. But with PIs expected to generate grants for campus-based research and state and local funding to decline starting in 2013, operating revenue is projected to slide to $22 million in 2014. It will then climb again and is expected to hit $39.5 million in 2019 and $39.4 million in 2020.

The business plan shows Jackson Lab's philanthropic support growing steadily as well — from $126,000 this year, to $2.5 million in 2013 when the permanent facility opens, to $11.3 million in 2020.

Gov. Charlie Crist and state lawmakers have already approved the Sunshine State's planned three-year, $130 million piece of the funding package for Jackson Lab, of which the laboratory would receive $50 million during the state fiscal year that starts on July 1.

That money, however, was approved under the assumption that Congress would approve $24 billion in additional Medicaid funding, including about $1 billion for Florida. The Medicaid money was removed from a bill that passed the US House of Representatives; the US Senate has shown interest in restoring that funding, but the odds of that happening remain uncertain.

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