Malloy proposes $200 million plan to attract more bioscience

Hoping to ramp up Connecticut’s bioscience industry, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Thursday proposed spending $200 million in state funds over the next 10 years to attract and invest in more bioscience companies.

Malloy made the announcement at a large groundbreaking ceremony held in a heated, white wedding-style tent for the billion-dollar Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine on the University of Connecticut Health Center Campus.

Malloy said the money, which would be bonded over 10 years, would build upon the state’s $291 million investment to help build Jackson Lab and subsidize research there for the next decade.

Malloy at Jackson

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the Jackson Laboratory ground-breaking.

Despite the state’s financial woes and the current budget deficit, Malloy said the program would be a top priority in the budget because it would foster economic development in the state. He described the program as a “smart investment” in the state’s future, capitalizing on the state’s assets in the rapidly growing field worldwide.

For years, Connecticut has made a mistake in failing to recognize this strength, while other states have leapfrogged ahead, he said.

“Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina are already doing this,” he said, adding, “We can’t afford to stand still.”

Malloy has frequently mentioned North Carolina’s research triangle, cluster of universities and scientific research companies, as a model for Connecticut’s bioscience future.

The new funding program would support “companies big and small and create an environment for bioscience to grow and thrive with good jobs with good benefits,” he said.

He pointed to New Haven, Farmington, Storrs and the Groton-New London area as areas of potential growth in the industry.

The proposal, called the “Bioscience Innovation Act” would also need legislative approval. The proposal seemed to get a thumbs up Thursday from both Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams and House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, who spoke at the podium about Malloy’s vision and leadership.

“We will remember today as a breakthrough day for bioscience and the future of the state of Connecticut,” Williams said.

If approved, the new program would be administered by Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public, economic development entity.

The groundbreaking for the 189,000-square-foot Jackson Lab building attracted about 300 legislators, scientists, politicians and others. The crowd sat in chairs lining the warm tent as excavators dug outside. Since the tent had a black plastic floor, event organizers set up a bank of sand for officials to ceremoniously dig their shovels into inside the tent for the actual ground-breaking.

Watching the festivities from the corner was architect Richard Korbis who explained that the finished building will be designed to curve in on both sides like a bowl. He said Jackson Lab was one of the most collaborative companies with which he has worked. The building’s shape, with both sides facing each other, is intended to reflect and encourage that spirit of collaboration. Construction is expected to be complete by the fall of 2014.

Jackson Laboratory, which is based in Bar Harbor, Maine, plans to use the genomics lab in Farmington to use computational analysis and genomics research to look at how all genes are put together and how they work together in order to research and address disease.

“Together we will improve the health of Connecticut citizens and reduce health care costs,” said Edison Liu, President and CEO of Jackson Lab.