OP-ED | On the Occasion of the Opening of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine
On Oct. 7, several hundred friends and supporters gathered for the grand opening of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine on the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington. This will be the newest branch of The Jackson Laboratory — a nonprofit research institute that has been a pioneer in genetics research for 85 years.
We are now at the dawn of a new era in medicine. Innovative technologies and advances in our understanding of the human genome have opened up new possibilities for improving health and preventing and curing disease. Our goals are clear: we want to discover the root causes of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. We want to enable medical researchers to develop and perfect cures individualized to each patient. We are expanding educational programs for everyone from high school and college students to scientists and health care professionals. And we are proud to be doing all of this right here in Connecticut.
The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine was created less than three years ago, with the aim of building on our expertise in genetics to advance human health. Since then, we have completed the construction of a state-of-the-art, 183,500-square-foot laboratory building in near-record time. With a total construction contract value of $111.8 million, 97 percent of construction subcontracts went to Connecticut businesses, 26 percent were awarded to small business enterprises, and 18 percent to minority business enterprises. The project has employed hundreds of Connecticut workers for a total of more than 600,000 construction person-hours. In addition, we have hired Connecticut architects, engineers, surveyors, movers, artists, testing labs, furniture installers, and more, resulting in more than $123 million going to Connecticut businesses and workers.
We are recruiting a world-class staff from around the state and around the world. In just two years we have hired 150 of the 300 people that we pledged to employ within 10 years. Over a third of those — 55 — were already Connecticut residents, and the rest are buying homes and settling into communities across the region. We are creating good jobs for Connecticut and retaining talent in the state, while at the same time recruiting some of the best scientific minds in the world to our team. Nearly half of our current employees, 70 in all, are senior scientific staff holding PhDs and MDs. These scientists are already hard at work unraveling the genomic factors that determine health and disease.
The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine will accelerate discovery and drive innovation to improve human health, but we won’t be doing this alone. We will be working shoulder to shoulder with academic, research, and healthcare partners across Connecticut who share our vision for a healthier future. Later this month, we will host, along with the University of Connecticut and Yale, the first Forum on Healthcare Innovation in Hartford. There, some 150 top decision makers will convene to discuss how to enhance the climate for biomedical innovation in our state. These conversations will open the path to better health for Connecticut’s citizens, and will spur the growth of its biomedical economy. To be competitive in the new knowledge economy, innovation and interconnectivity are key. The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine is helping to increase that critical mass of knowledge workers, and enhancing the intellectual interactivity within the state.
Our eyes are firmly fixed on the future. Every day will be better than the last, and we will achieve our goals one discovery at a time.
Dr. Edison T. Liu is the president and CEO of Jackson Laboratory.