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Sarasota May Still Get Personalized Rx Institute Despite Jackson Lab Withdrawal

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Originally published July 12.

By Turna Ray

After the Jackson Laboratory pulled out of plans to build a personalized health facility in Sarasota, Fla., due to budget shortfalls, the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and the University of South Florida have decided to continue talks to build such a facility on a smaller scale on their own.

"We are in the most preliminary of discussions," Kim Savage, senior communications editor of the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, told PGx Reporter. "It’s just an idea at this point."

On June 3, Jackson Laboratory announced it would withdraw its plans for a 12,000-square-foot personalized medicine facility in Sarasota County. The institute would have focused on applying patients' genetic data to treat heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes.

Plans for the facility fell through due to state budgetary woes that eliminated $100 million in funding that the state had initially promised the lab. "We were invited to submit a much-reduced proposal to the Florida Innovation Fund, but the amount available in that fund now, and the uncertainty of future funding, made such a venture too speculative to undertake responsibly," Charles Hewett, executive vice president of Jackson Lab, said in a statement.

Jackson Laboratory had been originally considering building a personalized medicine institute with USF in Naples. As previously reported by PGx Reporter sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News, the laboratory had projected that by 2020 its Florida facility would have 244 employees. A consultant's report added that by 2020 the facility would generate a total of 4,913 jobs, and by 2032 it would generate 11,490 jobs. But that plan also fell through due to monetary constraints.

Despite the setbacks squelching the Jackson Laboratory plan, leaders at USF and the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System still believe that growing the area's capability to deliver personalized healthcare will bring investment and jobs to the locale. "While we are sorry to lose the opportunity to partner with Jackson, we remain keenly interested in the opportunity to work with USF and develop a new plan to bring personalized medicine to our community," Sarasota Memorial CEO Gwen MacKenzie said in a statement in June.

However, there is currently no business plan for what the personalized medicine center will comprise or cost to build, Savage said, adding that no potential investors had yet been identified. She couldn't provide any more details on the project.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, leaders at the university and hospital are considering cardiology expert Leslie Miller to lead a $50 million personalized treatment facility located in Tampa. Doctors in that facility would collaborate with physicians at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and central Florida retirement community The Villages. Heart patients at these facilities would be able to voluntarily participate in stem cell, gene repair, and pharmacogenomics studies.


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