BAR HARBOR, Maine — The Jackson Laboratory reached a construction milestone Monday as iron workers perched high on the skeletal frame of an unfinished building and bolted the final piece of structural steel into place.
A small crowd of a few dozen people gathered in the afternoon chill next to the work site to watch and then applaud as the beam was raised by a crane and then fastened into place.
The $21 million project is one of several expansion projects being pursued by Jackson Lab, which is the largest employer in Hancock County and one of the largest in eastern Maine. The 21,000-square-foot building, which is scheduled to be completed in January 2018, is expected to create between 150 to 200 new jobs at the lab’s Bar Harbor campus, where it already employs approximately 1,300 people.
Construction crews broke ground on the new building on the lab’s Bar Harbor campus, which will be known as the Center for Biometric Analysis, in June 2016. The research facility is expected to attract as many as 30 new faculty scientists, each with a support staff of up to six people, lab officials said.
The new building will enhance the lab’s precision capabilities for detecting subtle signs of disease in specialized research mice, according to lab officials. Construction of the building is expected to cost $14 million, while outfitting the research units with high-tech imaging and scientific analytical equipment is expected to cost an additional $7 million.
Funding for the project is coming from $10 million in state money that Maine voters approved at a November 2014 bond referendum. The Jackson Laboratory is funding the additional $11 million, part of which is supported by grants from the National Institutes for Health to study causes and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and addiction.
Nadia Rosenthal, the lab’s scientific director for mammalian genetics, said Monday that the new research facility will be akin to a highly specialized hospital for mice, where there are no shortage of experts to diagnose ailments and test potential new treatments.
“It will be like walking into the emergency room of a large hospital in Boston,” she said. “This facility will generate new [mouse research] models.”
Other projects or initiatives being pursued by the lab, which uses specially bred mice to study human disease and illnesses, include construction of a new mouse vivarium in Ellsworth and a clinical genomics research partnership overseas with Wenzhou Medical University in China.
The Ellsworth mouse production facility is expected to employ around 230 people, three-quarters of them new positions, within a few years of its expected opening in January 2018, lab officials said. The research partnership in China is projected to result in the creation of 375 to 600 lab positions in Wenzhou.