Connecticut Offers $291 Million to Land Jackson Lab Branch

David is a Deputy News Editor specializing in coverage of science policy, energy and the environment.

Connecticut is proposing to pony up $291 million to help open a new offshoot of The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), a genetics research institute best known as a leading breeder of mice for scientific research. Today, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced the collaboration, which aims to make Farmington a hub of genetically customized “personalized medicine.”

JAX, an independent nonprofit headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, had hoped that Florida would provide start-up funds for such a facility there. But it dropped that bid in June as a result of Florida’s budget problems. The next month, Connecticut came calling, asking whether JAX would be interested in creating the new research center as part of Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative, which calls for spending $850 million to build the state’s biomedical industry. State legislators approved the initiative earlier this year with the goal of creating jobs and attracting new investment.

“The state made a compelling case,” said Edison Liu, JAX’s president and CEO. He calls the location—within a short drive of bioscience hubs in Boston, New York City, and New Haven—“ideal.”

The deal calls for constructing 16,000 square meters of new lab space for 30 senior scientists on the campus of the University of Connecticut, Farmington, just outside of Hartford. Planners forecast that the research center, to be called The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, would employ a total of 300 people within the first 10 years and 600 employees within 20 years thanks to an additional 7000 square meters of lab space. In addition to research, plans call for the center to dedicate space and staff to translating discoveries into commercial products and services, with hopes it will also spin off companies that create more jobs.

Before ground can be broken, however, the Connecticut Legislature will need to sign off on bonds to float the project, with a review expected to start next month. Overall, the state is promising to contribute $291 million in support over 10 years for construction, equipment, and operations. JAX estimates it will add another $809 million from federal research grants, philanthropic gifts, and income from selling mice and other products to operate the facility over the next 20 years.

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