Lab awarded $1.74 million for Ellsworth facility

ELLSWORTH — The Jackson Laboratory’s plans for a state-of-the-art mouse breeding facility at the former Lowe’s home improvement store have received a $1.74-million boost from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI).

The funding awarded through the Maine Technology Asset Fund (MTAF) will be used to develop a next-generation vivarium to raise mice for genetic research at the lab’s Ellsworth location.

“JAX leads the world in providing gold-standard, pathogen-free mice to the global research community,” says Jackson Laboratory Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Charles Hewett. “Demand for innovative mouse models is growing rapidly worldwide, and our Bar Harbor and Sacramento facilities will be at capacity before the end of the decade.”

Hewett explains, “The new vivarium will provide the space and state-of-the-art automation to expand and optimize production and positions JAX for the next 25 years.”

The lab will match the MTAF award and use the money to launch a pilot phase to test and validate the concept and equipment. The process could be commercialized in the future.

“The focus of the new facility will be on people, not machines,” Hewett notes. “We project 33 new JAX jobs during the pilot phase, 365 at the 10-year build-out and up to 725 related jobs in the community.”

Although the lab is a nonprofit organization, its economic consultant projects that from project inception through 2030, vendors and employees of the new vivarium in Ellsworth will generate more than $71 million in state and local taxes and fees in Maine.

In November 2012, following the purchase of the 143,000-square-foot former Lowe’s building on 17 acres on Kingsland Crossing in Ellsworth, the lab announced that it was launching a multi-year planning process to determine which functions would be located in the building.

The award is one of eight awards, totaling $4.85 million, that the MTI has made to Maine companies, nonprofit research institutions and the University of Maine to develop research and development capabilities in the state.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor. The lab also has locations in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. The lab employs 1,600 people.

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