Clinical laboratory managers and pathologists can expect more personalized medicine products and services as biotech industry flourishes
Its gold rush time in biotech. Because of the promise of biotechnology to improve patient outcomes—and deliver lots of good-paying, clean jobs, even states are competing to attract the top scientists and companies who conduct research into genetics, molecular diagnostics, and healthcare informatics.
This is an auspicious trend for the medical laboratory testing industry. Among other things, innovations in biotechnology are expected to find application in clinical laboratory tests that improve the diagnostic capabilities of pathologists. Biotech underpins genetic medicine and will fuel advances in personalized medicine.
Case in point is the news that Connecticut’s legislature recently passed a bill to authorize nearly a third of a billion dollars to build a research laboratory facility to be operated by Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and other collaborators. It will be a genomic medicine facility. That positions the Nutmeg State to attract and draw biotech companies and help boost its economic outlook.
The collaboration includes Bar Harbor, Maine-based Jackson Laboratory, the State of Connecticut, the University of Connecticut, and Yale University. The new Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine facility will be built on the campus of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.
“[This is] a strong vote of confidence in The Jackson Laboratory’s scientific research and contributions to better medicine,” declared Edison T. Liu, M.D., President and CEO at JAX in a press release. “By combining Jackson’s strengths in genetics and genetic technologies with the clinical and scientific expertise of Connecticut institutions, we will accelerate the development of new medical tests and treatments tailored to each patient’s unique genetic makeup.”
The plan, called the Connecticut Bioscience Collaboration Loan Program, authorizes the state to issue $290.7 million in new general obligation bonds at an estimated 5% interest rate over 20 years, reported GenomeWeb in its coverage of these developments. JAX is expected to pony up an additional $809 million through its own federal research grants, philanthropy, and service income.
The project expects to employ around 320 people over the first 10 years and 660 people within 15 to 20 years, GW stated. Additionally, 30 senior scientists will each head their own laboratories or research groups. The project will also provide space and staff for translating newly developed research applications into commercial products and services, such as personalized medicine, genetic tests, molecular diagnostics, and therapeutics.
Worldwide Boom in Demand Fuels State Competition for Biotech Dollars
According to a recent story in the New York Times, the biotech industry is booming and off to a great start in 2012. Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA) predicts that the global market for biotechnology will surpass $320 billion by 2015, the Times stated. Three factors fueling the growth include:
• increased availability of funding for R&D,
• expanding use of biotech in agriculture and medicine; and,
• favorable government initiatives expected to drive growth.
States like Connecticut are vying aggressively to increase their share of the biotech market. In their search for smart and sound economic development models, policymakers see the biotech and genetic medicine bandwagon as a way to create much needed job opportunities. Supporters of the Connecticut plan view the JAX project as a way to anchor a new bioscience hub that will attract other biotech businesses.
“[W]e took the next step toward reinventing Connecticut as a leader in the industry by officially welcoming JAX to the state,” announced Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy, in the press release. The plan, he stated, is about making Connecticut a leader in a growth industry.
Beth Bye, Connecticut senator from the 5th Senate District—which includes parts of Farmington where the new facility will be located—supported the project. “This is the right sector at the right time and this is the right company,” she declared.
Even detractors acknowledge the economy-stimulating potential of biotech. The primary critic of Connecticut’s JAX plan is Len Suzio, State Senator from the 13th District. “[Biotech] is an exciting field, and I can hear the euphoria,” he stated in the GW piece. However, Suzio and other legislators who opposed to the terms of the JAX plan, considered the project to be too expensive and too risky for the state.
Skilled Workers Essential to Attracting Biotech
Three assets essential to the R&D-intensive biotech industry that enabled Connecticut to land the JAX deal included:
- medical research facilities, such as the University of Connecticut in Farmington and Yale University;
- resources to fund collaborations, land, faculty and support staff; and
- a pool of educated, skilled workers.
Projects like the Jackson Laboratory of Genomic Medicine are widely expected to generate more opportunities for personalized medicine products and services. For clinical laboratory professionals and pathologists in Connecticut, the new research laboratory may be a source of employment. At a minimum, as research spills out of the Jackson Laboratory, it is likely that collaborations with medical laboratories in the region will develop as part of the process to validate the clinical performance of newly-developed genetic tests and molecular assays.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod