Remember Biology class – microscopes and dissections; frogs and mice? The descendents of those mice – or some remote relatives – may be coming this way. Recently, at the invitation of County Commissioner Donna Fiala, and at the courtesy of Keith Dameron of Iberia Bank, the Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of Advancement of Jackson Laboratory briefed a small group of Marco Island residents about Jackson’s hopes and plans for a facility in Collier County – and it all starts with mice.
In 1929, the Jackson Laboratory was created. After a modest beginning, with a small cadre of scientists, Jackson narrowed its focus to, yep, mice. Jackson, a not-for-private research institution discovered early on that the mouse is a superb research tool. From initial research on the gene, Jackson scientists have progressed to mapping elements of the human genome – the genetic makeup of the human body. The mouse genome is 95% identical to the human genome, and therefore an ideal model for understanding the derivation of human diseases. Jackson has grown, and today has more than 1,400 employees in Bar Harbor, Maine, and California.
Most important, Jackson has focused on Collier County as a site for a state of the art research facility concentrating on, as they say, “healthcare,” not “sickness care.” For generations we have sought cures for diseases predicated on the development of drugs keyed to the response of average victims of specific diseases. Instead, Jackson’s leaders are aiming more specifically at understanding the genetic makeup of humans, ultimately getting to the genetic mapping of individuals. By developing a huge database with networks of genes it will be possible to analyze and collate in order to detect indicators of the progress of diseases. Armed with this information, researchers can aim at prevention of disease, rather than struggling for cures after the disease has already taken over the body.
Jackson Laboratory now provides indispensable mice to 16,000 laboratories around the world for advanced genome research, as well as conducting its own research. In recent years the cost of sequencing a genome, and the time necessary to carry out the sequencing have both dropped dramatically.
Jackson Laboratory is in the process of attempting to locate a new facility in Collier County, probably at Oil Well Road. Recent development of research facilities in Florida, and elsewhere, has produced huge benefits to public health, and to the communities in which they are located. Job creation, expansion of facilities, expanding the economic and professional base of the area, attracting related businesses and providing incentives for local students to remain in the area are just some of the benefits.
The Florida Legislature is currently considering financial support for the development of the new facility and, if all goes well, it will then be up to the Collier County Board of Commissioners to take up this most promising issue.
The Mighty Mouse may be in our future!