Florida legislature recommends funding for proposed Jackson Laboratory research facility

Date: April 26, 2010
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Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida House and Senate conferees today recommended a $50 million appropriation for the Innovation Incentive Program as part of a three-year commitment of $130 million to establish a branch of The Jackson Laboratory in Collier County. The recommendation will become final if the full Legislature approves it later this week and then the Governor signs it.

Rick Woychik, Ph.D., president and CEO of the nonprofit Laboratory, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, said the promise of state funding is "an important first step" in advancing this new project.

"We're delighted that Florida's draft budget includes support for a new branch of The Jackson Laboratory," Woychik said. "If approved by the Governor, the final budget will be an essential vote of confidence that will help us attract the institutional partnerships and the matching funds we would need for the project to proceed." Approval by the  Laboratory's Board of Trustees will also be required, Woychik noted.

According to Woychik, work at the new facility would complement the work of the Laboratory's 38 research groups in Maine, who investigate the genetic basis of diseases including cancers, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, as well as normal development and aging. Tentative scientific plans for the Florida institute also build on the Laboratory's strengths in bioinformatics and computational biology to advance understanding of human biology, health and disease.

Having an institute in Florida would also allow the Laboratory to extend its well-known offerings of scientific conferences and workshops throughout the year. Naples and Collier County are an attractive venue for educational activities.

With the state budget providing funding for the institute, the Collier County board of commissioners is expected to consider providing matching funds.

Woychik stressed that The Jackson Laboratory has no intention of leaving Maine, where it employs about 1,200 people. "Our strategic plan calls for aggressive growth in Bar Harbor over the coming decade. Employment growth in Bar Harbor would at least match the job creation in Florida," he said. "Job growth over the last decade has been accelerated by Maine's investments in our campus infrastructure, and we hope that our partnership with the state will continue."
 
The Florida institute would be the second Jackson Laboratory facility to be built outside Maine. In 2001 the Laboratory established a small facility in West Sacramento, known as The Jackson Laboratory--West, and started offering mouse models and research services to the academic laboratories and pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the Western United States. JAX--West moved to a new and larger site in Sacramento last year and now employs 102 people who help to support Jackson Laboratory research in Bar Harbor. During the same 10-year period, the Bar Harbor campus added 281 new jobs.

Florida planners envision that Jackson's research institute in Collier County would serve as an anchor tenant for a larger research and education community that would significantly bolster Southwestern Florida's economy in the long term.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with a mission to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human diseases, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community. A National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, the Laboratory is also the world's source for more than 5,000 strains of genetically defined mice, is home of the mouse genome database and is an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education.

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Contact(s): Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058

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Media Relations, Communications Office
The Jackson Laboratory
600 Main Street
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609-1500
Phone: 207-288-6058 (journalists only)
Main Jackson Laboratory phone: 207-288-6000
Fax: 207-288-6076
Email: news@jax.org