Due to rapid advances in technologies to identify an individual’s complete genetic “recipe,” health care is entering an exciting new era of personalized medicine. Each patient’s unique genetic makeup will increasingly determine disease prediction, prevention and treatment.

This medical revolution will yield more effective medicines with fewer adverse side effects and lead to longer, healthier lives and lower health care costs. The personalized medicine industry in the United States already generates $286 billion per year in revenues and is growing by 11 percent annually, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Jackson Laboratory will drive the personalized medicine revolution with a new nonprofit research facility in Farmington, Conn., called The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine.

JAX Genomic Medicine will combine Jackson’s strengths in genetics and genomic technologies with the clinical and biological strengths of Connecticut’s teaching and research hospitals, including those of the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Yale University School of Medicine. Through collaborations with UConn, Yale and others, JAX Genomic Medicine will study the human genome to discover new strategies for treating diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and behavioral disorders.

Our Connecticut facility will employ 300 people within the first 10 years and 600 people over 20 years.

As a follow-up to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative, the state of Connecticut will provide a total of $291 million in funding to JAX Genomic Medicine for construction, equipment and research and operating support. The University of Connecticut will provide a 17-acre site at the heart of its health care campus, interim lab and office space during the construction period and funding for joint faculty and their support staff.

With state bond funding approved, Jackson is now negotiating the details of the project with state officials. Once a contractual agreement is in place after the first of the year, Jackson will begin the design of the JAX Genomic Medicine facility and start recruiting scientists to begin laying the groundwork of our exciting new collaborative research program. Construction will begin by early 2013, and the facility will open its doors in mid-2014. 

Some have asked why JAX can’t undertake this ambitious project in Maine. The answer is simple: Neither the required funds nor the highly specialized medical research partners exist in Maine.

However, an expansion into Connecticut will drive further growth at our campus in Bar Harbor.

Work in Connecticut on the human genome will complement and increase JAX’s work in Maine. Research at JAX Genomic Medicine will identify possible new approaches to treating disease, and our research in Bar Harbor will validate those ideas using laboratory mice. Mice are still the most useful animal model of human disease, and JAX in Bar Harbor is the world’s center for mouse genetics. The research activities in Connecticut will drive both research funding and laboratory mouse sales at our headquarters and create more jobs right here in Maine.

The Jackson Laboratory has created hundreds of high-paying jobs in previous years, even as we’ve expanded elsewhere.

When we built our new JAX-West facility in Sacramento, Calif., which now employs 120, some feared the expansion would be the “beginning of the end” for our Bar Harbor campus. Since then, however, we’ve added hundreds of jobs in Bar Harbor. In mid-November, the laboratory had almost 100 jobs posted for education levels ranging from high school diploma to Ph.D.

Moreover, we are planning major new investments in research capabilities in Maine and recruiting at least 10 new faculty members in the next few years, which will also create dozens of additional scientific, technical and administrative jobs here.  

With nearly 1,300 employees in Maine, The Jackson Laboratory is the Downeast region’s largest employer. JAX paychecks go to employees living in nine of Maine’s 16 counties.

Maine has been our home for 82 years. We have thrived and grown here since we first opened in 1929 — with a staff of only eight people. We are committed to growing our operations in Maine, and our expansion to Connecticut will help us do just that.

Charles E. Hewett, Ph.D., is The Jackson Laboratory’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.