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Mohegan — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told about 200 people gathered Wednesday morning for the kickoff of the two-day SBIR & Global Trade Summit at Mohegan Sun that Connecticut is doing all it can to spur innovation, technology and research in the state.
"In many ways, we need to be the fertilizer of growth that you're going to have," Malloy said.
SBIR stands for Small Business Innovation Research. Last year's convention attracted nearly 1,000 people from around the country and even internationally.
Malloy pointed to an initiative intended to boost research at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington as one of the keys in getting the state "back in the game" of innovation. The move prompted The Jackson Laboratory of Maine, which had been considering a location in Florida, to take a closer look at Connecticut, he said, eventually leading to a commitment from the company to build a 180,000-square-foot research center in the state.
Charles E. Hewett, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Jackson Laboratory, said in a speech after Malloy's appearance that he has never seen a state so aligned with the needs of his business. Permits were issued well before the deadline for approval, he added.
Hewett said he expects five faculty members to be in place in the state by September, doing research in areas that include genomics, cancer and stem cells. Jackson Laboratory is expected to break ground on its new facility in January, he added, and hopes to move scientists in about a year later.
"It's going to be a very exciting time," he said.
Hewett said Jackson Laboratory wants to work with innovators, including those developing new drugs and medical devices.
Personalized medicine will be an important part of Jackson Laboratory's work, Hewett said. Hewett said the market for personalized medicine is set to explode, and drug companies are more and more using genetic tests to better target the population that will benefit from a certain medicine.
He pointed to Pfizer Inc.'s drug crizotinib, developed by scientists in Groton, that targets small cell lung cancer patients with a certain type of genetic anomaly. The drug doesn't work on everyone, he said, but for a targeted population has a positive effect on about 60 percent of patients.
The first human genome, he said, took 15 years and $1 billion to complete; now, a genetic test can be done in little over a day and costs only about $1,500.
"It's Moore's Law on steroids," he said. "It's unbelievable."
Malloy said the state now has several programs in place to promote innovation in Connecticut, grants and loans that total about $240 million. The state also is looking to enhance the faculty at UConn, he said, by adding 235 tenured positions concentrating on research.
"We are going to build a better future for Connecticut," Malloy said. "Connecticut is back in the game, and you are a big part of it."