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UPDATE: Jackson Lab Enters Personalized Medicine Partnership with USF, Days Before Key Florida Vote

This report was originally published July 21, and updated to include the outcome of a Collier County Productivity Committee meeting, as well as an explanation of job figures in an economic benefit study of the project by a consultant to the Economic Development Council of Collier County.

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory joined the University of South Florida in announcing Wednesday a personalized medicine partnership that will include research collaborations, professional training programs, and a clinical initiative, days before a controversial vote by officials in Florida's Collier County on whether to join the Sunshine State in subsidizing the lab's proposed campus near Naples.

The announcement was made on the day an advisory panel of county residents formally questioned the economic benefit claims made on behalf of the project by a consultant to the public-private Economic Development Council of Collier County. The Collier County Government Productivity Committee, said in two analyses — and will tell Collier's five-member Board of County Commissioners — that it cannot declare the Jackson Lab project to be economically viable.

The commissioners are expected on July 27 to decide whether the county will contribute a $130 million subsidy to Jackson Lab matching a subsidy already approved by Gov. Charlie Crist, now seeking election to the US Senate, and state lawmakers. Jackson Lab has committed $120 million of its own funds, to be raised through a philanthropic campaign.

Jackson Lab and other supporters of the project have said the project will benefit Collier County by bringing there professionals with above-average incomes, and positioning the county as a key player in the state's emerging life-sciences industry — jumpstarted by more than $1 billion in economic incentives to a half-dozen research institutes from the state and local governments.

"Although not quantifiable, it is important to stress that this facility [Jackson Laboratory] will solidify Collier County's position as a leader in the 21st Century life sciences cluster of the entire State of Florida," EDC consultant Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables, Fla., stated in its report.

Supporters hope their arguments will be reinforced through the partnership announced by Jackson Lab and USF. In a memorandum of understanding, both institutions agreed to have their researchers collaborate on computational biology and bioinformatics projects, as well as studies into disorders that include cancer, Alzheimer's disease and the neurosciences, and metabolic diseases.

Michael Hyde, Jackson Lab's vice president for advancement and external relations, told GenomeWeb Daily News USF's resources include a large Alzheimer's research center "which we think promises some synergy with our neuroscience people," and a data-sharing operation focused on diabetes that could mesh with Jackson Lab's diabetes research effort.

Jackson Lab is home to the Type 1 Diabetes Resource, which collects and cryopreserves 20-30 mouse stocks per year that are deemed important to research in type 1 diabetes. The T1DR is funded by the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

"Here's an organization (USF) with a medical school and a health sciences center located right on the western coast of Florida. It makes great sense for us to become partners and to see where this can go," Hyde said. "We see an awful lot of places where research collaborations could happen."

Research is expected to take place both at Jackson Lab's Florida campus and at USF. Details of the research, and on the number of PIs from both institutions expected to collaborate, have yet to be worked out, Hyde said, adding, "It's pretty early to tell where it will go. What we've done so far is to explore the possibilities. At the administrative level, it looks like things could happen, and now we're going to have to start bringing our people together and exploring the particulars."

Also not yet known, he said, is which other health care organizations might join with Jackson Lab and USF for research and clinical initiatives. "We're not restricting our conversations entirely to local healthcare organizations," Hyde said.

"Researchers and clinicians will work together to bring the latest discoveries into clinical practice, with an emphasis on new medicine that is tailored to respond to the individual," Jackson Lab and USF said in their statement announcing the partnership.
To that end, USF and Jackson Lab also agreed to join with other health care organizations in developing a "clinical campus" to provide personalized medicine and other healthcare to patients from Collier County and beyond. "The partnership will be ideally positioned to provide personalized medicine across a continuum of care, from home therapies to outpatient and inpatient services," the institutions said.

Since the scientific program has yet to be finalized, Hyde told GWDN, "it is difficult to envision what the result of that science would be."

Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health, said in the statement, "We want to give our students and residents an education that will help them become leaders in the new era of genomics-based personalized medicine. The possibilities for collaboration are limited only by our own imaginations."

USF Health consists of USF's Colleges of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health. USF Health and Jackson said they will develop education programs in personalized health, pharmacogenomics, and bioinformatics for professionals in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and emerging health professions. The partnership also said it expects to develop continuing medical education programs to help teach doctors and other practicing health professionals about these new areas of medicine.

Assessing Economic Impact and Cost

The institutions projected that their partnership will enhance economic activity within the "biomedical research and education village" to be created starting with the Jackson Lab project. In a report made public earlier this month, a consultant to the EDC projected that the village and Jackson Lab would generate a total 4,913 jobs by 2020 and 11,490 jobs by 2032.

Jackson Lab projects it will base 244 jobs at its Florida campus by 2020. According to the WEG report, the campus will account for a total 563 jobs throughout Collier County by 2020 and 621 by 2032. The higher numbers reflect the inclusion of indirect and induced jobs attributable to the Jackson Lab project, Tammie Nemecek, the EDC's president and CEO, said Thursday.

Indirect jobs would be those used in providing goods and services related to Jackson Lab, while induced jobs are involved in providing consumer goods and services to be purchased by direct and indirect workers.

It remains to be seen whether the Jackson Lab/USF announcement eases concerns by numerous residents that the benefits of the Jackson Lab project and biomedical village are outweighed by its cost to Collier County taxpayers. Some opponents have likened the package to corporate welfare.

Concerns over the project's cost and viability have been echoed by the productivity committee. In its economic analysis, it cited projections from Jackson Lab that over its first 10 years, it would generate $552 million in total income. In addition to $130 million each from the state and county, the laboratory estimated it would collect $151 million from donations, $71 million in service and collaborative revenues, $63 million in grants, and $7 million in investment income.

Jackson Lab's Florida campus expects net operating losses each year from 2014 through 2022 to be reduced through donations and investment income, the economic analysis stated.

"The state and county's willingness to provide $260 million to stimulate and diversify Collier County, and a loyalty by Jackson Lab to try to make the project work, is not necessarily the formula for a good business decision," the committee concluded in a draft report analyzing the Jackson Lab project's economic viability.

The committee recommended that "every effort should be made to secure additional revenue from other sources to reduce county tax outlays," including some of the revenues anticipated from royalties generated through the Jackson Lab/USF partnership.

"That has not been a topic of conversation. I couldn't comment on that," Hyde said in response.

In another draft report, the committee laid out several options for how the county could raise the $130 million required under the economic incentive package hammered out for Jackson Lab.

Those options include:

• A tax or "franchise fee" tacked onto utility bills — but that can only be imposed in unincorporated areas of the county, shielding 10 percent of county residents in cities like Naples from having to pay.

• A property tax hike. One scenario would add a cumulative $417 to the tax bills of the owners of properties assessed at $200,000 between the fiscal year begun July 1 and the 2020 fiscal year, and $626 to the bills of $300,000 property owners. Those hikes could dip to $390 and $585, respectively, under another scenario.

• Using revenue from property tax hikes to fund new bonds — but the bonds would require voter approval via a referendum.

• Issuing new bonds funded through existing sources outside of property taxes, such as sales taxes — an option used by Palm Beach County toward the county share of incentive funds for the Max Planck Florida Institute, which broke ground on a permanent facility in Jupiter, Fla., last month.

• A combination of a franchise fee and higher property taxes. Over 15 years, one-family homeowners would pay between $720 and $1,800, depending on where they live and how much their homes are assessed.

• A sales tax hike, which would also require voter approval via referendum.

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