Jackson Labs Officials in Naples Next Week

Published on Friday, 02 April 2010 12:51

Facing a major step of securing local matching funds for state government grants, top managers of the Jackson Laboratory are coming to Naples next week to discuss plans to build a new research facility in the area.

The contingent from the Labs includes Dr. Richard Woychik, the CEO, its CFO, Linda Jensen, and Vice President Mike Hyde, who said the group "will be meeting with civic leaders, philanthropists, and government officials to discuss various topics relating to the proposed institute."

The organization's plans to build a $700-million research center near Ave Maria were disclosed last week when the Florida Senate Ways and Means Committee approved an earmark of $50 million to help fund the facility. The full appropriation of $130 million, which would need to be matched with local funds, is working its way through the Florida legislature as part of the budget process. The Naples Daily News reports that the budget plan approved by the Florida House of Representatives includes money that could be directed toward the Jackson Laboratory but "it is not a done deal," according to Naples State Rep Thomas Grady. (click here for NDN story.) Collier County commissioners have told the Naples Daily News that they believe they can come up with the matching funds.

The Jackson Laboratory is an 80-year-old non-profit genetics research institute based in Bar Harbor, Maine. The company describes the main thrust of its research as "the use of the mouse as a model organism from which to make inferences regarding human biology." That research has led to a number of major medical breakthroughs such as the transplanting of bone marrow and the development of drugs that enable organ transplants by suppressing a body's rejection of foreign tissue.

Mr. Hyde had told The Ave Herald that the organization's research activities were devoted to using the mouse and that its research did not use human embryonic stem cells. There are several references to human embryonic stem cells on the organization's website, however, and The Ave Herald asked Mr. Hyde to clarify the work the Jackson Labs does, and its involvement, if any, with embryonic stem cells. He responded with a statement saying that the Jackson Laboratory's mission includes providing education and research resources for the global biomedical community, and that "since the study of human embryonic stem cells is a major area of investigation in modern science, the topic is reflected in our programs and services." (The full text of the statement is below here)

Schedules and agendas for some of the Jackson Labs educational programs that are published on the organization's website indicate that at least some human embryonic stem cells are used to demonstrate the propagation of stem cell lines used in laboratories. The Catholic Church opposes research using stem cells derived from human embryos.

Mr. Hyde has said that the Jackson Labs does not use embryonic stem cells in its research.

The Labs' statement says that "the precise nature of the work to be performed at the proposed institute in Naples is still under discussion by our scientific staff, but would most likely involve the interrogation of genomic and genetic data in a way that will provide insights into the molecular basis of human health and disease. " The facility is planned to be located off Oil Well Rd. on land owned by the Barron Collier Companies. Blake Gable, the president of Barron Collier's real estate operations, said that his company is entirely responsible for the project and it has no relation to Ave Maria University.

Recent Naples Daily News Stories on this topic can be found at the following links:
State funding for genetics research facility in Collier still alive as House approves budget
Proposed genetics research facility could pump millions into Collier County

The full text of the statement by the Jackson Laboratory Vice President Mike Hyde:

The Jackson Laboratory is a nonprofit genetics research institute of world renown.  Our mission includes providing education and research resources for the global biomedical community.  Since the study of human embryonic stem cells is a major area of investigation in modern science, the topic is reflected in our programs and services.  Our education program includes conferences for scientists from around the world who are involved in a wide range of research activities, including an annual conference on stem cell techniques.  Our mouse models of human disease are used in virtually every form of biomedical research, including engraftment studies.  Details about our research, resources and education programs are available on our website www.jax.org. 

The main thrust of research at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor involves the use of the mouse as a model organism from which to make inferences regarding human biology.  The precise nature of the work to be performed at the proposed institute in Naples is still under discussion by our scientific staff, but would most likely involve the interrogation of genomic and genetic data in a way that will provide insights into the molecular basis of human health and disease.