The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine was designed to be sophisticated enough to entice internationally acclaimed scientists, bold enough to symbolize the state of Connecticut's commitment to advanced research, yet practical enough for an economic nonprofit organization serious about its mission.

“Genomic medicine represents the next great frontier in the quest to improve human health,” said Dr. Edison Liu, president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory. “With this new facility, we are poised to play a leading role in opening up that frontier and bringing the benefits of scientific discovery into the lives of patients.”

Centerbrook, in collaboration with Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, designed the $135 million Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine research facility. A nonprofit research institution based in Maine and with facilities in California as well, JAX has a staff of 1,400 professionals nationwide and is a designated National Cancer Institute research center.

Opened in October 2014, the 183,500-square-foot JAX building is set on a 17-acre site adjacent to the UConn Health campus. It houses state-of-the-art laboratories where more than 300 biomedical researchers, technicians and support staff will probe the human genome for new treatments for cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and other daunting diseases.

The building includes 17 “wet” biology labs and another 17 “dry” computational science labs, along with scientific service areas. The labs are clustered in large open suites to encourage collaboration among scientists and technicians, and to enable spaces to be reconfigured quickly and easily as research programs grow or evolve.

“The only constant in laboratory design is change,” said Centerbrook Partner Jim Childress. “As we plan research facilities, we ask the management and user groups and ourselves ‘What if the technology changes or your research mission changes?’ With few exceptions, virtually every laboratory is liable to be repurposed in the near term. We have to plan for that, including innovations that can’t be envisioned today.”

At the building's entrance, visitors walk into a light-filled, double-story vaulted reception area leading to: a 200-seat auditorium, two large conference/seminar rooms and a 200-seat dining area that opens into an outdoor courtyard. On the second floor are core service labs, a data center, offices, conference rooms, an employee fitness center and an informal seating area referred to as the “pub” for casual networking and formal pre-conference gatherings. Research labs and faculty offices will predominate on the third and fourth floors.

Nearby JAX on the Farmington campus, Centerbrook designed an expansion and renovation of the UConn Health Academic Building, home to the university’s School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine. The firm also collaborated with HDR on the design of the 306,000-sqare-foot UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion. These and other projects are part of Connecticut’s effort to become a national leader in the field of biosciences and medicine.

Emblematic of the state’s aspirations in the biosciences, the 2014 dedication ceremony was attended by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other distinguished guests.

Photography © Robert Benson