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Bond Commission Approves $291 Million For Jackson Labs Project

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Jackson Laboratories rendering (Courtesy Office of the Governor)

Jackson Laboratories rendering (Courtesy Office of the Governor)

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By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The State Bond Commission on Monday approved $291 million in borrowing over the next decade for a proposed research laboratory to be built at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, a project the governor contends will help grow the state’s bioscience industry and ultimately produce thousands of jobs.

The Maine-based Jackson Laboratory is building the $1.1 billion facility. Construction is expected to begin within a year. Under the deal already approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, the state is providing $192 million in loans that will be forgiven once Jackson creates and retains 300 jobs by the 10th year.
Jackson also is receiving up to $99 million in grants over 10 years for research.

“Connecticut … needs to be involved in an area of … research that is growing in excess of 11 percent per year,” Malloy said.

He added that a decision by Pfizer Inc. last February to lay off more than 1,000 employees at its research and development site in Groton and move some operations to Cambridge, Mass., was a wake-up call for Connecticut.

“If we do not invest in our supporting infrastructure, our universities and our research facilities, then we’re going to lose the opportunities that we have,” said Malloy, a Democrat. He estimates the project will eventually lead to 16,000 bio-science-related jobs.

Yet the project still concerns Republicans. The two GOP members of the Bond Commission voted against releasing bonds for the lab. The project ultimately passed on an 8-2 vote.

Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, questioned the amount of state money being invested in a private project. If Jackson fulfills the job requirements, it will own the new facility. But the bio-science researcher will forfeit the ownership of the 250,000-square-foot-laboratory, fixtures and furniture to the state if it doesn’t meet the terms of the deal.

Roraback estimated the project calls for to the state spend about $3 million for each scientist who will work at the new lab.

“In my view, our economic development investments ought to create a lot more jobs for a lot less money,” Roraback said. “It’s not that Jackson Labs isn’t doing good work, it’s that we’re over-investing and getting a return that is under what we all should expect.”

Roraback also criticized the project for not having had a public hearing. Additionally, he said the General Assembly “kissed goodbye to any meaningful oversight” of the project with Monday’s vote by the Bond Commission. Similar to how funds were doled out for massive improvements at the University of Connecticut, the $291 million in borrowing will be released over the next decade, without requiring legislative approval for each allotment.

Under the deal, 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, which plans to specialize in personalized genomic medicine. That involves tailoring treatments to patients based on their genetic makeup.

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.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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