BAR HARBOR — State policymakers talk a lot about attracting new, knowledge-based businesses to reverse a “brain drain” of talented young Mainers leaving for jobs elsewhere.
For a generation, the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Salisbury Cove has played a role both in creating those businesses and providing training for those who work in them.
The research organization took a leap forward toward achieving those goals July 28 when they celebrated the groundbreaking of a new training lab that will double the laboratory’s capacity to provide hands-on training for students and teachers in biomedical research. It also will free up space for new research teams to help the institution meet its goals of expanding its drug discovery and development activities and enhancing its position as a global leader in research on aging and the repair and regeneration of tissues.
Work already has begun on the new 6,560-square-foot facility, so there were no shovels with ribbons to be seen. Instead, students and interns in current training programs were invited to sign their names on a steel beam set to be installed in the building.
The new laboratory is being funded by a $3 million state bond issue passed by Maine voters in 2014 to bolster Maine’s biotechnology sector. That funding is being added to $5.7 million in public and private funds to cover the recruitment of three new biomedical research teams.
State Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County), who served on the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Maine’s Economic Future that first considered the proposals that eventually led to the bond issue, spoke at the ceremony.
“It was very much like an episode of Shark Tank,” he said. He acknowledged the late nights the MDIBL spent waiting in hallways to testify or answer questions for the committee.
Students who have participated as interns and fellows in training programs here said doing original research is very different than learning in a “canned” classroom laboratory setting.
“At Sloan Kettering, where I work, you guys might be able to get somewhat near the researcher you’re working for,” Peter Allen, the chairman of the institution’s Board of Trustees, told the students. “Here, the principal investigators are regularly sitting down with their entire lab group, which includes the students.”
The new training lab is expected to be complete in March of 2017.