With the blow of an air horn and the crush of an excavator, a new era in the UConn Health Center’s history has begun. During an event Wednesday attended by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and numerous legislators, the demolition started on one of a dozen metal buildings that first served as the foundation of the Health Center more than four decades ago.
Malloy, along with UConn President Susan Herbst and Health Center Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Frank Torti, watched as the large claw-like machine ripped apart the walls of the two-story building 27.
The removal of the lower research campus buildings is making way for the new Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, a new center for personalized medicine. The lab is the first return on the state’s investment in Bioscience Connecticut.
“What this is about today is the continuing process of repositioning Connecticut as a leader in life sciences,” said Malloy. “Jackson Laboratory’s agreement to come to Connecticut to spend over a billion dollars, and our participation in their joining us, is an important milestone in this.”
Championed by Gov. Malloy and approved by the General Assembly in 2011, Bioscience Connecticut aims to stimulate short- and long-term economic development.
It’s estimated the Jackson Laboratory project will create more than 600 researcher and staff positions, as well as 800 construction jobs and thousands of spinoff and indirect jobs.
“Sometimes in Connecticut we tend to dwell on the small and not the big picture. This is big picture stuff. This is about repositioning a university. This is about repositioning bioscience in Connecticut and our investment in it. This is big picture and if you don’t see it you might actually be blind,” Malloy joked. “A malady we’ll seek to resolve here at the University of Connecticut.”
“Jackson Laboratory is proud to be your partner in this great undertaking,” said Jackson Lab Vice President for Advancement Mike Hyde. “Today we’re building a better future for our state and our families. We’re working for better treatment for deadly diseases that plague us and we’re working for a brighter economic future, too.”
The mainly one-story metal structures on the lower campus laid the foundation for the Health Center. UConn’s first medical and dental students attended classes there until the main building at the top of the hill was finished. Through the years they have been home to basic science research endeavors in genetics and other fields; and they have housed clinical research initiatives that have studied a range of issues including healthy aging, workplace safety, and balance and gait issues for older patients.
“All of these projects have been relocated as this site now makes way for the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine and the pursuit of new treatments and cures,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “It is very fitting that this area on the Health Center’s campus will continue to foster research advances and cures.”
“There’s much to be proud of when we consider the work that has been done in this part of the campus through the years,” said Torti. “In a sense, it helped to lay the groundwork for the exciting challenges that will be tackled by the UConn Health Center and our colleagues from the Jackson Laboratory as we embark on a new focus in personalized medicine.”
The groundbreaking for Jackson Laboratory is expected in early 2013 with the completion of the project by the end of 2014.