Malloy announces new bioscience act

Gov. Dannel Malloy announced his plans for a $200 million Bioscience Innovation Act, which aims to boost Connecticut’s biotechnology sector, at a ceremony held in Farmington last week.

Malloy spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Jackson Lab project, a $1.1 billion partnership between the state and the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. He said that this new $200 million project would build off the momentum generated by the Jackson Lab’s opening and would expand the growing bioscience industry across the state — an industry Connecticut United for Research Excellence estimates employs 18,000 people and spends $6 billion annually on state operations — while developing partnerships with universities, research institutes and businesses.

“[The Bioscience Innovation Act] … will allow us to attract and invest in more companies in this sector and create good-paying jobs with good benefits for our residents,” Malloy said in a press release last week.

The act’s funding is designed to address shortcomings in the biotechnology industry by covering areas which are not already funded by the state. The act also calls for the creation of an advisory board to provide oversight of fund allocation and the institution of a vetting process for investments made under its provisions. The entire act will be monitored and administered by Connecticut Innovations, the state’s economic development entity.

Noting that cities like New Haven that have a lot of universities around them tend to become bioscience hubs, Michael Kinch, managing director of the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery, said he welcomed Malloy’s announcement.

“It’s a great thing that the governor and the political legislature are moving in this direction,” Kinch said. “Connecticut has a lot of interest in the biomedical area.”

Kinch pointed to the existence of several large bioscience companies like Pfizer in the state, alongside various insurance companies and medical-device manufacturers, as indicators of the importance of passing such an act. The biomedical sector, Kinch added, produces high-paying jobs, and the exposure to ideas from investigative labs in Connecticut universities is “outstanding.”

Mike Hyde, Jackson’s vice president for advancement and external relations, said in a Wednesday email to the News that the new Bioscience Innovation Act would position Connecticut as a global leader in biomedical research.

“[The Bioscience Innovation Act will] spur economic development with new jobs, and improve the health of Connecticut residents,” he said. “The new funding that Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing would support all of those important goals.”

Kinch said the growth of the bioscience industry has had a lot to do with funding being allocated to stem cell research, especially by private organizations like the Jackson Lab.

Edison Liu, president and CEO of the Jackson Lab, joined Malloy at the Farmington ceremony, along with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and other state officials. The Jackson Lab in Farmington was originally sanctioned by the state Legislature in October 2011, when the state agreed to pay $291 million of the $1.1 billion required for the project.

The new act is part of Malloy’s legislative package for the 2013 legislative session, which he is set to announce on Feb. 6.

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