The Jackson Laboratory to build $1.1 billion lab at UConn, gets $33 million in grants

Posted Sept. 29, 2011, at 8:48 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 30, 2011, at 10:08 a.m.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Dannel Malloy and an independent research laboratory based in Maine are scheduled to announce plans to build a new $1.1 billion lab at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, the governor’s office said Thursday.

Executives from The Jackson Laboratory and state officials, including UConn President Susan Herbst, will announce the collaboration during a news conference scheduled Friday at the state Capitol, said Colleen Flanagan, a Malloy spokeswoman.

The project will lead to 661 jobs related to research, Flanagan said. There are also 842 construction jobs projected as well as an estimated 6,200 indirect jobs. Other details of the project will be released Friday.

The announcement comes after the General Assembly in June authorized $254 million in bonds to overhaul the health center complex and turn it into a bioscience research hub.

Joyce Peterson, a spokeswoman for The Jackson Laboratory, declined to discuss specifics of the UConn project, but said “this will be a new operation,” when asked if employees were being moved from the lab’s Bar Harbor, Maine, and Sacramento, Calif., facilities. The Jackson Laboratory, also known for breeding and distributing more than 6,000 strains of genetically defined mice used by 19,000 other labs in 50 countries, has 1,212 employees in Maine and 125 in California.

“We’ve got amazing researchers. We’re dynamite and we’re growing,” she said, adding that the lab’s mission is to seek the genetic basis for treating, preventing and curing human diseases.

On Thursday, the National Institutes of Health awarded the laboratory grants totaling $33 million for three projects that the lab says will speed disease research. Lab researchers funded by the NIH grant plan will spend the next five years extensively testing and generating data about mice with disrupted genes.

“Given the extremely high overlap between the mouse and human genomes — 99 percent of the genes are in common — the project will, by inference, elucidate the function of much of the human genome, most of which is currently unknown,” said Bob Braun, Jackson professor and chairman of research, in a written statement about the grant funding.

The Jackson Laboratory began in 1929 with eight researchers, and Peterson said the staff has more than doubled since 1989. The lab is also home of the Mouse Genome Database and provides training and education to scientists.

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