MARCO ISLAND — A group of Marco Island business and organizational leaders liked what they heard during a pitch on the proposed genetics research complex planned for eastern Collier County.
The revolutionary medical possibilities — personalized medicine through people’s genetic codes revealing predisposition to diseases — were explained by Maine-based Jackson Laboratory’s CEO Rick Woychik and Vice President for Advancement Michael Hyde.
But it was the business and commercial offshoot that caught the attention of many of the attendees at the Thursday meeting hosted by county Commissioner Donna Fiala at IberiaBank on Marco Island.
Chamber of Commerce President Vip Grover was bullish after listening to the presentation.
“In principal, I don’t think there are any cons,” he said. “I think that whenever you have an opportunity to get a growth industry like this to start and operate in your county, you have to try to take advantage of it.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for this county to bring in something that is not tourist or housing related ... it’s a great opportunity for us to diversify.”
Grover said the opportunities for other industries and other growth to come as a result of the foundation being here could be an “incredible boon” for the county.
“It’s something we really need to look into,” he said, “and if there’s any way for us to do it, we do it.”
Fiala echoed that sentiment, saying that the county simply had to embrace the laboratory, which will require state, local, and private funding to the tune of about $710 million.
The 50 acres the facility would comprise on Oil Well Road would be donated by Barron Collier Co.
Hyde and Woychik spoke at length about the laboratory’s proposed local database, which would contain people’s genetic information and medical history, and allow the investigation of variations in human genomes and how the variations correlate with variations in disease.
Woychik said he believes health care in America right now is more a case of “sick care,” and he referred to a statement made earlier this week by president and chief executive officer of the NCH Healthcare System, Dr. Allen Weiss, that personalized medicine will alter medical care from a “repair shop to a prevention shop.”
The establishment of the facility locally would also mean local physicians could be part of the research process, Hyde said.
Among the attendees were civic, business and organizational leaders from Marco Island.