Hwang endorses fund to bring bioscience jobs to state

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State Rep. Tony Hwang, shown here with Raymond Labrec, a contractor with the UConn Health Center, currently under construction.

State Rep. Tony Hwang joined in a bill signing ceremony with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst and Edison Liu, chief executive officer of Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX), to support the newly-created Bioscience Innovation Fund.

The fund’s goal is to support the state’s growth as a world leader in the bioscience sector, strengthen its capacity and research synergies to create competitive investment tools, attract additional federal and private dollars and re-energize Connecticut’s economic landscape toward increased job growth and financial sustainability.

The allocation of the fund will be administered by Connecticut Innovations, the state quasi-public economic development entity that helps businesses innovate and succeed in a global marketplace. The fund will have a rigorous peer review process to vet ideas for scientific, economic and strategic merit, and will have an advisory board consisting of leaders across the spectrum of healthcare and bioscience to provide oversight and strategic guidance.

“This is an exciting time for Connecticut’s bioscience sector that is a recognized national leader in the area genomic and bioscience research,” said Hwang, co-chair of the legislature’s bipartisan Bioscience Caucus. “This new innovation fund will assist in establishing a road map for investments throughout the state in the broad and expanding spectrum of life sciences research. The commitment reiterates that Connecticut will be a major player in growing and competing in this critical sector and that we are willing to making the necessary investments towards that goal.”

Hwang emphasized the commitment to job creation and developing sustainable economic growth industries as the primary focus of this bill.

“The Bioscience Innovation Fund sets out a long-term, foundational investment in the life science future of Connecticut and will help to create economic development and job growth into the future for our state,” he said.

Herbst said the vital connection between Bioscience Connecticut, the Bioscience Innovation Fund and Next Generation Connecticut legislation approved this past legislative session that will greatly expand educational opportunities, research and innovation in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines at UConn over the next decade.

“The university is deeply grateful to Gov. Malloy and the General Assembly for their recognition of the university’s role in economic and workforce development,” she said. “There is strong data to support that these initiatives will work. For example, by investing STEM, Next Generation Connecticut will generate $146 million per year in new research expenditures and $285 million in new business activity in Connecticut. In addition, it will create 4,050 permanent new jobs and 30,000 total construction jobs through 2024. This is a model that has worked in other states and is bound for success in Connecticut — along with many other facets of the governor’s economic development plan.”

“As we move forward with this exciting project, we remain enormously appreciative of the support and confidence entrusted to us from Governor Malloy and the General Assembly,” says Dr. Frank M. Torti, UConn Health Center’s executive vice president for health affairs and dean of the UConn School of Medicine.

Last month, researchers from Jackson Laboratory and the UConn received an competitive five-year, $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health toward research in understanding how healthy bones develop, and what goes wrong in osteoporosis and other disorders. This project will be the first of many future innovative bioscience research grants for our growing bioscience industries.

Hwang also toured the JAX building in Farmington, which is still under construction and expects to open in the fall of 2014.

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