State of Connecticut recruiting The Jackson Laboratory for new research institute

Date: September 30, 2011
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Bar Harbor, Maine — Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and state economic development leaders have invited The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) to launch a new center for personalized medicine and systems genomics in Connecticut. 

The research center, to be called The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, would accelerate the development of new medical treatments tailored to each patient's unique genetic makeup. Plans call for the center to employ 300 people within the first 10 years, and 600 employees within 20 years.

Under a proposal to be reviewed by the Connecticut legislature in late October, the State would provide a total of $291 million in support to JAX Genomic Medicine over 10 years for construction, equipment and operations. The total 20-year capital and research budget for the institute is projected to be $1.1 billion, with Jackson providing $809 million through federal research grants, philanthropy and service income.

“Personalized medicine will require us to convert our emerging understanding of complex genetics and the human genome into new medical insights, diagnostics and therapeutics, says Edison T. Liu, M.D., JAX’s newly named president and CEO.  “To advance personalized medicine, we need a new kind of bioscience institution that can extract medically meaningful information from vast arrays of genomic data and convert that information into commercial medical applications.  The promise is to personalize treatments for human diseases, to maximize therapeutic outcomes, to minimize damaging side-effects, and to provide significant cost savings in health care delivery."

The personalized medicine industry in the United States is worth $286 billion this year and is growing by 11 percent annually, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. By focusing on personalized medicine, JAX Genomic Medicine would produce high-paying jobs, attract new business and investment opportunities and create bioscience-based spin-off companies—all leading to better healthcare, Liu says.

Gov. Malloy, together with representatives of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and officials of the University of Connecticut, contacted JAX in July to assess its interest in creating the new research center in Connecticut.  JAX Genomic Medicine would be the next phase of Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative, under which more than $850 million has been allocated to build the biomedical industry in Connecticut.

“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 industry,” said Gov. Malloy. “We have the infrastructure, the talent and the drive to make Connecticut a leader in this emerging science, and I’m pleased to welcome The Jackson Laboratory to our state.”

JAX Genomic Medicine would integrate Jackson’s strengths in genetics and genomic technologies with the clinical and biological strengths of Connecticut institutions including Yale University and the University of Connecticut. Special clinical areas of focus could include cancer, aging, neuropsychiatry, stem cell and reproductive biology, metabolic diseases, and genetic disorders.

JAX Genomic Medicine would be housed in a 173,500-square-foot building to be erected near the campus of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.  It would engage 30 senior scientists known as principal investigators who each would head a laboratory research group, supported by services and administrative departments.  The center would also dedicate space and staff for translating newly developed research applications into commercial products and services for the medical and scientific community, such as computational services, diagnostic products or drug screening. 

JAX also proposes to assist the UConn Health Center in its next phase of faculty growth and to advise the state's economic development agencies in identifying the best industrial and biotech partners for commercializing new developments in personalized medicine.

Liu has already successfully led a project of similar scale and scope. In 2001 he was recruited from his post at the National Cancer Institute to establish the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), tasked with developing the region's genomic research infrastructure and scientific human capital and attracting R&D ventures in biomedicine into Singapore. In less than a decade, the GIS grew from three employees into a major international research institute with a staff of 270, including faculty in functional genomics, computational biology, population genetics and genome-to-systems biology.

Liu emphasizes that the new Connecticut project would provide many benefits for the Laboratory's Bar Harbor campus. "Developing this new institute in Connecticut would raise the already considerable prestige of The Jackson Laboratory as the world leader in mammalian genetics,” he says. “It would also bring us into the forefront of personalized medicine."

The JAX Genomic Medicine facility would use computational methods to identify new potential treatments that would then be tested in Bar Harbor. "The faster pace of medical discovery would drive both research funding and laboratory mouse sales, thus creating more jobs here in Maine," Liu says.  He notes that since establishing a JAX facility in California in 2000, the institution has added more than 300 jobs on the Bar Harbor campus as well as 125 in Sacramento.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a total staff of about 1,400. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human disease, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community.  Annual research grants awarded to JAX during the 2010 fiscal year totaled $62.7 million.

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Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058, The Jackson Laboratory

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