ELLSWORTH — The Jackson Laboratory has been awarded $12.5 million in voter-approved bond funding for its new state-of-the-art mouse production facility here.
The grant from the Maine Technology Institute was announced in February.
The lab’s Ellsworth vivarium is now under construction at the site of the former Lowe’s home improvement store at Kingsland Crossing. It will use new technology to help raise mice for scientific research.
“The automated systems we’re implementing will significantly increase production safety and efficiency and enhance product quality,” said Charles Hewett, the lab’s chief operating officer and executive vice president. “Our new Ellsworth facility is an important step in advancing The Jackson Laboratory’s position as a global leader in research mouse production.”
The lab has committed $75 million to the first phase of the three-phase project. The $12.5 million grant is toward the $60 million cost of the second phase, which involves outfitting a portion of the facility with equipment to process and convey materials and for mouse racking and caging. The lab will fund the additional $47.5 million.
The lab’s grant was the largest of five awards totaling $24.5 million from the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.0 that were announced. The program is financed by a $45 million bond approved by voters in June 2017. The Maine Technology Institute manages the bond on behalf of the state.
The grant “recognizes the enormous economic impact that the JAX project will have in the Downeast region,” said Brian Whitney, the institute’s president. “It will have the largest direct employment impact of the proposals that MTI received and, more importantly, the laboratory’s direct and indirect influence on helping to solve humankind’s most confounding health problems makes the investment even more compelling.”
Currently, scientists in nearly 25,000 laboratories around the world use Jackson Laboratory mice. The Ellsworth project will expand production capacity and create new jobs, according to laboratory officials.
They estimate that in the next five to 10 years, the vivarium will create 350 full-time jobs in Ellsworth and 120 jobs at the lab’s Bar Harbor campus.
A $1.74 million grant from the Maine Technology Asset Fund that was awarded in 2015 launched the pilot phase of the Ellsworth project.
The Ellsworth facility is expected to open this summer.