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June 17, 2024

Jackson Lab proposes $33M Bar Harbor expansion aimed at study of rare diseases

Drawing of proposed expansion at Jackson Laboratory. Rendering / Courtesy Woodard & Curran, Jackson Laboratory The lab’s Rare Disease Translational Center has outgrown its “limited and dispersed footprint” within an existing facility.

The Jackson Laboratory, a nonprofit biomedical research institution headquartered at 600 Main St. in Bar Harbor, has submitted an application to the town’s planning board to build a 20,000-square-foot expansion to its Rare Disease and Translation Center

The planning board has the application on the July 3 agenda.

The addition will allow for the consolidation and expansion of the lab’s Rare Disease Translational Center and provide dedicated laboratory and office space, according to the application.

The lab established the center in 2022, with a mission to develop partnerships, innovation, precision engineering and scaled pre-clinical pipelines to bring targeted therapies from lab to clinic swiftly and effectively. 

In the two years since then, the center has supported over 40 collaborations on more than 80 projects. 

Earlier this year, Congress approved $8 million, as part of the FY24 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill, to go toward construction of the facility, which will be dedicated to research of rare diseases and the development of new therapies to treat them.

The Orphan Drug Act of 1983 defines a rare disease as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S., according to the lab. Yet all the various rare diseases have a significant combined impact, affecting 1 in 10 Americans and more than 350 million people worldwide. 

For example, in collaboration with Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the lab is testing a gene therapy for PGAP3-congenital disorder of glycosylation, a rare disease that affects just 65 people worldwide, the majority of them children. Patients typically present with developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, weak muscle tone, seizures and spasms.

The total estimated cost for the expansion is $32.75 million for design, permitting, construction, equipment and other development costs. The estimated cost of construction alone is $24.5 million.

It’s anticipated the project will receive grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration and from the National Institutes of Health. Both are agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the lab’s CFO, Douglas Abbott, in a letter to the board documenting the lab’s capacity to fund the project.

The lab’s Rare Disease Translational Center has outgrown its “limited and dispersed footprint” within an existing facility, according to the application submitted by Portland-based engineering firm Woodard & Curran, which has an office in Bangor.

The expansion would connect to an existing building, designated Building 53 or the “Core Research Complex,” which was previously engineered to support the addition. 

The Core Research Complex was the name given to a single large, interconnected building that houses the lab’s research facilities. The overall lot size is 35.6 acres.

The addition would be two stories with a mechanical penthouse. The footprint would be approximately 9,200 square feet for each floor, with a 1,688-square-foot mechanical penthouse. It would be steel and concrete construction with brick and metal panel veneer. 

The site design concept was centered around minimizing disruption to existing conditions and leveraging existing on-campus utility services, driveways and parking lots. 

The schedule for construction is based on permitting review and approval, but the goal is to mobilize for early site work activities this November and to complete construction by August 2026.

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