Jackson Lab ready to start hiring for new genetics center

Last week Jackson Laboratory and the state of Connecticut took a major step in their joint journey toward creating a new research institution devoted to the study of genetics and a new generation of more personalized therapeutics. Lawmakers in the state signed off on Governor Daniel Malloy's plan to invest $291 million to build a 173,500-square foot JAX Genomic Medicine building on the campus of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

The bare bones of the plan are simple: Construction will start in 2013 and wrap in 2014 and the new lab will hire 320 in its first decade of operation as it aims to eventually create a staff of 660 by 2034. But they're already getting prepared to start hiring scientists now, with plans to house them in interim quarters until their new state-of-the-art facility is ready for its official opening ceremony. And there will be an early focus on new technology with commercial prospects.

Jackson Laboratory expects the whole budget for that first 20 years to run $1.1 billion, with much of the rest of the money coming from federal research grants and philanthropy.

The vision is very close to the business plan laid out by a string of elite research institutions drawn to Florida under Governor Jeb Bush. Centers for Scripps, Max Planck and others are now up and running, creating the research that is intended to spawn a thriving biotech industry in the state.

At the new JAX, the founders say they will create teams of 30 investigators to do the work. But they're also creating the infrastructure for translational work, actively pushing research into new products that can be picked up by new and existing biotech companies.

Connecticut has already been exposed to a considerable debate over the notion of taxpayer support for biotech development. If the experience in Florida--which never actively pursued this new institute--is any indication, then the debate about jobs and economic payback has just begun.

- read the Jackson Laboratory release