When Connecticut officials learned in June that Jackson Laboratories of Maine withdrew its request for state funding in Florida, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his administration began talking about how to get them to expand in Connecticut.
Shortly after that, Malloy sent a group of state and University of Connecticut officials to Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Jackson Laboratories Chief Financial Officer Charles Hewett said that since withdrawing from Florida they were approached by at least 10 different entities, mostly states.
“When the governor and his team came to us with Bioscience Connecticut already in place, with Yale and the University of Connecticut both on board, supportive, it was an opportunity we had to act on now,“ Hewett said Friday at a Capitol press conference.
The Bioscience Connecticut initiative, launched earlier this year, helps link the state’s bioscience and research facilities at UConn’s main campus on Storrs, it’s Health Center in Farmington, and similar work being done at Yale.
Jackson Laboratories President and CEO Edison Liu said that as a nonprofit laboratory specializing in personalized genomic medicine, they were attracted to Connecticut because of the research facilities and ability to test their developments in genetic technologies in a clinical setting.
The legislature will still need to approve spending $291 in state funds, $192 million in a construction loan, and $99 million in a research partnership. Jackson Laboratories will invest about $809 million in the project.
If the legislature gives its approval during the Oct. 26 special session, a deal between the state and Jackson is expected to be inked before the end of the year and construction of the 175,000 square-foot building will break ground sometime in 2014.
The legislature’s Republican minority, many of whom did not support the expansion of the Uconn Health Center and John Dempsey Hospital earlier this year, seemed optimistic this was an investment they could support if they had more information.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said a lot of the concerns his caucus had over the expansion of the medical center was the process and how it was suddenly before them without so much as a public hearing.
The legislature approved a plan earlier this year that adds about $254 million in bonding to the $362 million already approved by the legislature and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell for expansion of John Dempsey Hospital on the University of Connecticut Health Center‘s Farmington campus. The remaining $203 million will be raised from private donations.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney said he was never opposed to increasing the research space at UConn, he was opposed to spending more money on a hospital that continues to run deficits.
Jackson Laboratories will speak with the Republican caucuses on Oct. 12.
In the meantime, Liu said he will be sending researchers down to start their collaboration before the building at UConn’s Farmington Health Center campus exists.
“Research is not predictable, so I can’t tell you that in one year or two years, there will be something breathtaking that will come out of it,” Liu said. “Certainly our hope is to get started right away.”
Jackson Labs has 1,400 employees in total and much of what they do is support the research in mammalian genetics throughout the United States. In Bar Harbor, Liu said they don’t have a medical school.
“The distance between genomic discovery and application is pretty remarkable and so to have expertise in the medical context here in such depth will allow us to transfer much of the information and generate new systems much faster,” Liu said. “Once we do that then we can quite frankly tailor therapies for you that are more efficacious.”
According to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report personalized medicine, which Jackson Laboratories specializes in, is a $284 billion per year industry, which is growing 11 percent annually.
The state says the project will generate more than 800 construction jobs, and 300 high-paying research jobs in the first 10 years. The research jobs are expected to increase to more than 600 over 20 years and economic modeling shows that spin-off jobs and indirect jobs created by the investment will create about 6,200 jobs.