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Jackson Lab Plans New $1.1B Genome Institute in Connecticut

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory plans to build a genomic medicine research center in Connecticut and is working with the state's governor and the University of Connecticut to ask the legislature to help fund the building and its operations, the state governor's office said today.

Jackson Lab and Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a press conference today that the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine would be located on the UConn Health Center's campus in Farmington, and that it would employ 300 people over the first 10 years and a total of 600 within 20 years.

The Bar Harbor, Maine.-based institute and Malloy have proposed a total capital and research budget of around $1.1 billion over 20 years, including $291 million from the state to build, outfit, and operate the facility. Jackson Lab said it expects to add $809 million for the lab through its own federal research grants, philanthropy, and service income. The state Legislature is expected to review Malloy's proposal in late October.

Jax Genomic Medicine would combine Jax's genetics and genomics expertise with the clinical and biological capabilities of Connecticut's institutions, including UConn and Yale University. Specialty areas for the new lab could include cancer, aging, genetic disorders, metabolic diseases, and others.

The 173,500 square-foot building near the UConn Health Center campus would house 30 principal investigators and resources, staff, and space would be dedicated to the translation of new applications such as diagnostics and computational services into commercial products. The institute also said that the new lab would identify new potential treatments that could then be tested up at its Bar Harbor facility.

Jax also said that it wants to help the UConn center grow its faculty and to advise the state's economic development agencies to identify the best industrial and biotech partners in personalized medicine.

Jax said that it was contacted by Malloy and representatives from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and UConn officials to gauge Jax's interest in building a new research center in the state. Landing the new Jax lab would mark the next phase in the Bioscience Connecticut initiative, which has harnessed over $850 million in support for its biomedical industry in the state.

The discussions between Malloy's office, the economic development group, and Jackson Lab were likely well underway when Jax announced that it had hired Edison Liu from his post as head of the Genome Institute of Singapore to be its next president and CEO.

"The faster pace of medical discovery [with the new Jax lab] would drive both research funding and laboratory mouse sales, thus creating more jobs here in Maine," Liu said in a statement.

"Developing this new institute in Connecticut would raise the already considerable prestige of The Jackson Laboratory as the world leader in mammalian genetics,” he said. “It would also bring us into the forefront of personalized medicine."

“By investing in a smart, strategic project like Bioscience Connecticut … the state sent a loud and clear message around the world to companies and research institutes like The Jackson Laboratory that we are ready, willing, and able to be a partner in this up-and-coming [personalized medicine] industry,” Malloy said in a statement.

Malloy today pitched the new institute and the Bioscience Connecticut initiative in general as engines of job development. His office estimated that the Jax facility will create 6,800 permanent jobs within 20 years. Under his proposal, the $291 million in funding that would be provided by Connecticut includes $192 million in a secured construction loan and $99 million in research partnership participation.

For more than a year-and-a-half Jackson Lab had been trying to put together a deal to build a new lab focused on personalized medicine in Florida, but after agreeing on facilities first in Naples and then in Sarasota, the plans fell through and Jax shut down its efforts in June. Florida's budget was just too constrained for legislators to approve the $100 million that the institute, which already has a lab in Sacramento, Calif., was seeking from the state.

“The state made a compelling case to establish this lab here and because of its ideal location between New York City and Boston, its world-class colleges and universities, and its existing work in the bioscience field, it made perfect sense to come to Connecticut," Liu explained.

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