Lab officials impressed with area’s potential

ggagliano@bradenton.comFebruary 12, 2011 

SARASOTA -- Officials with the Jackson Laboratory, scouting for a new campus for their genetic research facility, left with a favorable impression of Sarasota County.

Most particularly, officials say they feel confident about what the region could deliver in terms of location and fund-raising for its proposed biomedical research institute.

“One aspect of our project is to try to assess the philanthropic potential in the community,” said Mike Hyde, vice president for advancement and external relations at The Jackson Laboratory in Maine. “There are a number of foundations in and around Sarasota and we have had very, very general discussions with two or three of them -- and have found a strong sense that the community would support this project philanthropically.”

Jackson Lab officials met with Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation on Thursday to go over at least five sites that have potential for the local facility that would study the genetic basis of diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Lakewood Ranch was among the sites pointed out on a map to Jackson Lab officials. No specific sites were visited nor agreed upon.

Ley said he pointed out available land in Lakewood Ranch near the proposed bi-county economic development hub that is slated for 10 acres at the eastern terminus of University Parkway.

“We spent time talking about our strengths in comparison to Hillsborough (County), they explored with us how we go about building buildings and the relationships from the public-private point of view,” Ley said.

Jackson Lab officials also traveled to Tampa this week to meet with officials from the University of South Florida, which has agreed to be a research partner with the Jackson Lab.

“The meeting in Tampa was much more focused on the scientific portion of our collaboration with USF,” Hyde said.

When last pitched to Collier County in June 2010, Jackson Lab estimated the campus would cost $260 million, require up to 50 acres and create 204 jobs over seven years.

In the original business plan, Jackson Lab officials estimated it would need $120 million in philanthropic support.

Jackson Lab hasn’t specified to Sarasota how much it is seeking in philanthropic giving, said Teri Hansen, president and chief executive officer of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

There are no plans for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to donate money, Hansen added.

“We will help them with the fundraising,” Hansen said. “There are a lot of philanthropists in this community who are very concerned about health and healthy living. This type of project would be right down their philanthropic alley.”

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