PHOTOS Jackson Lab: Bar Harbor, Maine, to Collier County would be ‘two-way street’

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Tour of facilities in Bar Harbor Maine

What's the story behind Jackson Laboratory, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, and considering an expansion to Collier County? Daily News journalists Liz Freeman and Greg Kahn have traveled to Bar Harbor this week to find out. Follow their reports at naplesnews.com and in the Daily News.

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— A faded black-and-white poster of one of Jackson Laboratory’s renowned scientists, George D. Snell, hangs on a hallway wall, a silhouette of the 1980 Nobel Prize winner deep in thought.

Few of the nonprofit lab’s 38 investigators and its team of researchers likely give much thought to his image when they pass by it today. But it was Snell’s work of unlocking the mystery of how the human immune system works that has helped propel many of today’s young scientists at Jackson into genetics research.

What is certain at the 1,200-employee laboratory is that they don’t know exactly where today’s science, led by the sequencing of the human genome, may take them five years from now in disease prevention and treatment.

From a geographic standpoint, some of the scientists could spend time a few years from now in Naples, if Jackson Lab receives $130 million in local funding, to be matched by the state, to build a personalized medicine institute.

The plan is to take today’s knowledge about disease development and progression in mice, based on gene composition, and study how it translates into diseases in humans.

“It will very much be a two-way street,” Chuck Hewett, chief operating officer of Jackson, said of the interaction he expects between the laboratory’s research in Bar Harbor and what is planned for Naples.

“We will look at human genomic databases to see if some of the same genes apply to humans and cause the same diseases we see developing in the mice,” he said. “A big part of what we hope to do in Florida is identify new molecular targets and treatments with compounds.”

* * * * *

During its 81-year history in Bar Harbor, Jackson has pioneered mice breeding, starting with a dozen mice in the 1930s. Today, Jackson produces nearly 5,000 strains of genetically altered mice for scientific research around the world.

The mice production and reproductive services for scientists generates $90 million annually for the laboratory. At any given time, half a million mice are kept at the Bar Harbor campus, on 130 acres adjacent to Acadia National Park.

One side of the campus is for mice production, only accessible by employees and government inspectors because of the need to keep the mice in a healthy and sanitized environment.

The bulk of the 59-building campus is devoted to research, but one of the newest buildings opening in August will house all of the lab’s reproductive sciences division, where employees perform cryopreservation of mice embryos and sperm and also do in vitro fertilization. The 20,000-square-foot building and highly specialized equipment cost $6.1 million; the state paid for about 40 percent of the cost and the lab paid the remainder.

In the past 10 years, Jackson has added 230,000 square feet of research buildings on the campus.

“Mice are expensive to keep, so we only keep those for specific customers,” said Joyce Peterson, Jackson’s spokeswoman.

About 300 to 400 strains of mice are actively used for research and “the rest (as embryos) are frozen.”

The reproductive sciences program recently was awarded a $120,000 grant to help its 67 employees learn techniques for better data management.

“We have a highly motivated work force,” said Rob Taft, a scientist and director of the division. “The bottom line is if we become more efficient, we provide better services to the nonprofit scientific community and it enables the lab to be more efficient and hire more scientists.”

Carol Bult joined Jackson as a researcher in 1997 after working at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., with Craig Venter, who was instrumental in the first human genome sequencing. She came to Jackson because of the mouse genetics program.

“We maintain a database, the most comprehensive collection of genomics for mice anywhere,” she said. “And those resources are available for the entire (scientific) world.”

Another researcher, Kevin Flurkey, and his team are studying how gene variation in mice can increase a healthy lifespan.

“We were one of the first labs to identify a gene to increase the health span,” he said. “It started in the 1980s, it was a 15-year program. We were on the leading edge of that.”

Today, he said, scientists from all over have identified 30 to 40 such genes.

“We know you can alter many, many genes to increase the life span,” he said.

Posted earlier

BAR HARBOR, Maine – A faded black-and-white poster of one of Jackson Laboratory’s renowned scientists, George D. Snell, hangs unnoticed on a hallway wall, a silhouette of the 1980 Nobel Prize winner deep in thought.

Few of the nonprofit lab’s 38 investigators and their team researchers today likely give much thought to his image when they pass it. But it was Snell’s work, of unlocking the mystery of how the human immune system works, that has helped propel many of today’s young scientists at Jackson into genetics research.

What is certain at the 1,200-employee laboratory is that they don’t know exactly where today’s science, led by the sequencing of the human genome, may take them five years from now in disease prevention and treatment.

From a geographic standpoint, some of the scientists could spend time a few years from now in Naples, if Jackson Lab receives $130 million in local funding, to be matched by the state, to build a personalized medicine institute near Ave Maria.

The plan is to take today’s knowledge about disease development and progression in mice, based on gene composition, and study how it translates into diseases in humans.

“It will very much be a two-way street,” Chuck Hewett, chief operating officer of Jackson, said of the interaction he expects between the laboratory’s research in Bar Harbor and what is planned for Naples.

“We will look at human genomic databases to see if some of the same genes apply to humans and cause the same diseases we see developing in the mice,” he said. “A big part of what we hope to do in Florida is identify new molecular targets and treatments ...”

Wolf pack circling, fighting for taxpayer’s bones Political Point of View by Collier Democrats

Will elections be a referendum on Jackson Lab? The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker

Where does the Naples Tea Party stand on Jackson Labs? Naples Tea Party

The Jackson Labs question made simple - sort of Brent Batten

Lead, follow or get out of the way Fred Coyle / Collier County Commissioner, District 4

A big gamble on a lots of uncertainty Dave Trecker / Pelican Bay

Questions, answers on the proposed Jackson Laboratory/Florida Tammie Nemecek / President, Economic Development Council of Collier County

The Scientific Reality of Jackson Lab The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker

Thoughts on Jackson Lab Political Point of View by Collier Democrats

Jackson labs business plan a work in progress Brent Batten

Uncertain predictions, questions cloud Jackson Lab proposal Reinhold Schmieding / Naples / President and founder, Arthrex Inc.

Jackson Laboratory: Keep Expectations in check The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker

In hard times, Collier should help residents, not Jackson Lab Peter Gaddy / President, Golden Gates Estates Area Civic Association

Principals and practicalities of Jackson Lab subsidy don’t add up Guest commentary by Pelican Bay resident Jack Chandler

Jackson Laboratory and Collier County ... what comes next? Fred Coyle / Chairman, Collier County Commission

Jackson Lab a meeting of mice and men Brent Batten

Return to naplesnews.com for more on this story

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Comments » 1

vivianped writes:

Big spread in Bar Harbor Maine.
Non profit, but getting grants.
130m from Collier county
matching 130m from Florida.
Quote "employ more scientists"
Who is backing this?
And why?

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