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Robert Trigaux

Sarasota County outguns Hillsborough for Jackson Lab, talks of creating 'biomedical village'




Wake up and good morning. The bad news is Hillsborough County lost out to Sarasota in the competitive game of luring a new biotech firm with genetics research expertise to expand here. The good news is Jackson Laboratory chose Sarasota County (it was looking as far south as Collier County) for its planned 120,000-square-foot facility that Sarasota County voters will be asked to pay for.

So Jackson Lab's capabilities will still be shared in the "greater" Tampa Bay area. And either way, Hillsborough or Sarasota, Jackson will partner its efforts with the University of South Florida. Put a big plus in the column for the Tampa Bay region's young biotech cluster.

Here's a Jan. 26 Venture posting about Jackson Laboratory and Orlando's early interest in the firm's anticipated expansion to a Florida site. The 1,400-employee non-profit research firm, based in Bar Harbor, Maine (shown above, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif.), uses genetic research to find ways to prevent, treat and cure human diseases. States Jackson's web site: "Our work uses the mouse as a research tool. Because mice and humans share 95% of their genes, mice are an effective and efficient model for human diseases."

Hillsborough economic development officials were hoping for Jackson to join the county's M2Gen, Draper Lab and Moffitt Cancer Center at the apex of its biotech research firms. Jackson will operate a small office and lab at Tampa's USF. But as the Tampa Tribune points out, M2Gen and Draper have yet to employ as many people as Jackson Lab expects to hire -- as many as 300 people in Florida in the first few years.

Jackson Lab Vice President Mike Hyde told the Tribune that Jackson Lab was swayed by the way businesses, charities and government pulled together in Sarasota to recruit the lab. A large nonprofit group, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, expects to help the lab raise money for its research and operations. And, the foundation hosted several parties and other events for Jackson Lab officials. Here's the Tribune story.

This is a potential coup for Sarasota County (the Sarasota Herald Tribune calls it a "game changer"), though the deal raises a number of questions. To lure Jackson Lab, there are big bucks incentives required which seem like they are forthcoming from the state and county but the final paperwork isn't in place yet. As the Bradenton Herald reports, Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, says the Legislature last year budgeted $130 million for Jackson Lab and appropriated $50 million, with a promise the rest would be approved over three years. The  deal also assumes a big and unspecified philanthropic effort to raise funds for Jackson from the wealthy private sector. That's not all that unusual since Scripps Florida, when it expanded to the east coast of this state from California, tapped the immense wealth of the Palm Beach area to supplement its fundraising.

Hmmm. Those are tentative words in a state running a deficit and with a slash-and-burn Gov. Rick Scott at the helm. The Bradenton newspaper says Bennett thinks the Legislature will follow through with that commitment, "especially if Sarasota County, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation or other landowner donates the land needed for the project. Gov. Rick Scott also will have a say, Bennett said."


charleshewettevpcoojacksonlab.jpgThis is interesting. "As part of the project, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and other community agencies will spearhead the creation of a major biomedical village, including research, clinical medicine, education, and residential and retail activity, that will grow up around the new Jackson facility," according to a news release. Others in the effort include USF and Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System. Charles Hewett (photo, left), executive vice president and chief operating officer of Jackson Laboratory, said the arrangement is ideal for the creation of a regional biomedical hub. Here's the Bradenton Herald story.

"There already are hints that the world-renowned Moffitt Cancer Center might open a satellite office at the village, aimed at partaking of the genetics research the institute will do to tailor medical treatments to patients' genetics assay, says the Sarasota Herald Tribune story.

I don' have a clue how they can estimate these numbers 19 years in advance, but projections say Jackson Laboratory-Florida could generate 2,200 jobs and $600 million per year by 2030. Here's a "fast facts" on the Maine research firm and a video introduction to the firm.

Welcome to Florida.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist







[Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 6:53am]


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