Laboratory breaks ground for JAX Genomic Medicine

Farmington, Conn.—More than 300 scientists, state officials, business leaders and other invited guests marked the start of construction of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine on Thursday at a noontime ceremony on the University of Connecticut Health Center campus.

“We will make you proud, Connecticut,” Jackson President and CEO Ed Liu, M.D., promised a standing-room-only crowd gathered under a tent on the 17-acre construction site.

Liu said JAX Genomic Medicine will help establish Connecticut as a global leader in biomedical research, spur economic development with new jobs, and improve the health of Connecticut residents.

“Genomics is comprehensive and precise,” Liu said. “The comprehensiveness gives us speed in the discovery of preventions and cures. The precision allows us to personalize these treatments to best suit each patient. Ultimately, the goal of our science is to transform medicine toward improving care, lowering costs and increasing both lifespan and healthspan.”

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has championed bioresearch as the cornerstone of economic development in Connecticut, underscored his commitment by announcing his intention to create a new $200 million fund to support biomedical research over 10 years. If approved by the state’s General Assembly, the fund would help build on the momentum of Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative, which is spurring growth in the research sector.

“What we are doing in bioscience is critical,” Malloy said. “We are positioning the state to be a hub of bioscience activity—activity that connects health care, engineering, science, institutions of higher education and technology.”

The new research fund, he added, “will strengthen our capacity to innovate and create the investment tools necessary to attract business and grow good jobs.” 

UConn President Susan Herbst said, “In the years ahead, as new cures and new treatments are developed here in Farmington with JAX, our work will be more profound and powerful than we can even describe today.”

Frank Torti, executive vice president for health affairs for the UConn Health Center and dean of the UConn School of Medicine, thanked the governor and the Connecticut legislature for bringing The Jackson Laboratory to Connecticut. “We will change the future of medicine because of you,” he said.

Liu, Malloy, Herbst and Torti were joined on the podium by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, and Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

At an open house earlier in the day, Jackson staff, scientists and guests mingled in JAX Genomic Medicine’s temporary quarters on the UConn Health Center campus. The event included a scientific poster session and opportunities to learn about the specific work being done by researchers in Connecticut.

JAX Genomic Medicine already employs about 30 people, including a core group of scientists and a smaller operational staff. Collaborations are being formed with researchers at the UConn Health Center, at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, and at several hospitals in the greater Hartford area.

After Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, guests enjoyed lunch at UCHC’s Cell and Genome Sciences Building, followed by an afternoon academic seminar by genomicist Charles Lee, Ph.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. A reception and professional networking opportunity wrapped up the day’s activities.

The new JAX Genomic Medicine facility will be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2014. It will employ 300 scientists and operational staff within the next 10 years and 600 employees within 20 years. Researchers at the facility will study the human genome and discover new ways to diagnose, prevent and treat diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,400. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.