Billion Dollar Genonomic Lab Coming To UConn; 300 Jobs Promised
FARMINGTON, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A final agreement between the state of Connecticut and a Maine-based research lab to build a genomic research facility at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington was finalized Thursday, promising at least 300 jobs within 10 years and giving preference to Connecticut workers.
Construction of the $1.1 billion research laboratory is expected to begin within a year.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called the agreement between the state and The Jackson Laboratory historic. He said the project has the potential to make Connecticut one of the top centers in the world for personalized genomic medicine, which tailors treatments to patients based on their genetic makeup.
Personalized medicine will be a major focus of the new facility, and Jackson’s researchers will team with the UConn Health Center and UConn’s medical school. Yale’s medical school and hospital also will participate in the research.
“What we’re talking about is the creation of the next generation of jobs,” Malloy said.
Jackson’s president and CEO, Edison Liu, said the ultimate goal of the collaborative project is to apply new technologies to help people live longer and healthier lives.
“If we are successful here in Connecticut, we can imagine a future where your doctor can scan your genome and — that of your cancer and tailor a treatment that is personalized and unique for you — that work better than anything we have today,” he said, adding that researchers also hope the technology can be used to prevent diseases in individuals.
The project has moved at a quick pace. In late September, Malloy announced that The Jackson Laboratory had agreed to come to Connecticut after a similar deal fell through in Florida. By October, the General Assembly voted to approve $291 million in borrowing for the project. That figure includes $192 million in loans that will be forgiven once Jackson creates and retains 300 jobs by the 10th year. The workers must be paid for at least six months, an average annual wage that is equal to 125 percent of the state’s average wage.
If the job requirements are not met, the deal states that Jackson forfeits ownership of the 250,000-square-foot laboratory, fixtures and furniture to the state.
Republican state lawmakers, the minority party in the General Assembly, had voiced concern about letting Jackson own the facility should the project ultimately fall apart. For the first four years after the 10-year-period, the state would receive a steep discount in the purchase price of the building if Jackson decides to pack up and leave, said Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith.
Under the agreement, Jackson will be able to purchase the land for the lab for $1 once the nonprofit, independent lab has created 600 jobs in Connecticut. Preference for the new jobs will be given to Connecticut residents, so long as they meet the job qualifications. Scientists, however, will be excluded from that requirement. International searches will be conducted. Preference is also given to Connecticut-based vendors.
The deal also provides Jackson with up to $99 million in grants over 10 years for research.
Starting in the 10th year and running 15 years, the state will be able to benefit financially from any intellectual property developed at the new lab. The state will share a portion of net royalties, depending on the proceeds; 10 percent of any net royalty proceeds from intellectual property valued up to $3 million and 50 percent of any net royalty proceeds above $3 million.
If Jackson comes up with an idea that’s unique and new at the Farmington facility, the laboratory will likely file a patent and try to commercialize the idea, Smith said.
“Our interest will be in any royalty payments that come off of those ideas that they create, be it through a start-up operation, be it through a sale or a licensing of that (intellectual property) for someone else to develop,” Smith said.
Liu said state officials in Connecticut made it ”irresistible” for the lab to expand in the state.
Last June, the General Assembly approved a separate $254 million in bonds to overhaul the UConn Health Center and turn the complex into a bioscience research hub.