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Jackson Labs Names Sarasota as Location for New Institute

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory will open a new personalized medicine institute in Florida that will work in partnership with the University of South Florida (USF), Sarasota County, and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF), Jackson Labs said today.

The Jackson Laboratory-Florida will reside in a 120,000 square-foot facility and will include labs and offices in the USF Health complex located in Tampa. The institute will focus on developing genetics-based treatments for heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes.

The GCCF and other groups in the community will work to create a "major biomedical village, including research, clinical medicine, education, and residential and retail activity that will grow up around the new Jackson facility," the lab said in a press release.

Jackson Lab and USF had been holding discussions about locating the Florida institute in a site near Naples in Collier County and in Hillsborough County, but those eventually lost out to Sarasota after a long and sometimes controversial discussion over $130 million in state funding and matching county funds that the lab sought to support the project.

Jackson's flagship facility is located in Bar Harbor, Me., where it recently opened a new $4.7 million, 22,500 square-foot research building, and it runs another facility in Sacramento.

"Our facility in Sarasota County, coupled with operations on the USF Health campus, will build the collaborations essential to breakthrough discoveries, clinical medicine, and educational outreach," Charles Hewett, Jackson Lab's executive VP and COO, said in a statement.

Hewett said that Jackson Lab will work with government and private partners to approach Florida Governor Rick Scott "for guidance," and possibly for financial support.

"We will explain the economic and medical benefits, and we will ask for his support," Hewett said.

Jackson Lab said that Sarasota officials will seek voter approval for county funding through a referendum that could be held as early as July. If that funding gets the green light, Jackson Lab said, it could start construction within 12 months after the vote, and it would start operating in temporary facilities in the area soon after the funding is secured.

"Our partnership with The Jackson Laboratory and USF Health will bring the most advanced medical thinking in the world to our patients in Sarasota and this region," Sarasota Memorial Health Care System CEO Gwen MacKenzie said. "Together, we will provide personalized health care tailored to each individual's genetic makeup."

USF President Judy Genshaft said that her school "is fortunate to have attracted an internationally renowned research institute to locate in the region," and the school will make labs, offices, and research spaces available to Jackson Lab "at nominal cost."

"This arrangement promotes even closer scientific collaborations, and it lowers the cost to the public," Genshaft added.

Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley said that the new development to be anchored by Jackson Lab could generate as many as 2,200 new jobs and $600 million per year in economic activity in 20 years.

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