HARTFORD, Conn. — A Maine genetics research lab announced Thursday it has hired the first researcher to join its new center for genomic medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

Jackson Laboratory officials said they have hired Yijun Ruan, who’s an associate director of the Genome Institute of Singapore and a biochemistry professor at the National University of Singapore. The Associated Press learned of the hire ahead of a formal announcement planned for later Thursday. It marks the first significant hiring for the $1.1 billion laboratory project, which is scheduled to open in 2014.

Under a $291 million agreement with the state, $192 million in loans will be forgiven once Jackson creates and retains 300 jobs. Jackson is also receiving up to $99 million in grants for research from the state.

Ruan, a U.S. citizen, is bringing up to six members of his research team to Connecticut. Ruan and other recruits will initially work in leased space while the 173,000-square-foot facility is designed and built.

Besides recruiting research faculty, Jackson, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, said it is also hiring for other top jobs, including site manager, science coordinator, facilities manager, senior personnel manager and senior financial analyst.

In an interview with The Associated on Thursday, Jackson’s CEO, Dr. Edison Liu, he said “a buzz” has developed in the scientific world over the Connecticut project and he is meeting with experienced researchers who are interested in working at the new facility. He said the state of Connecticut itself has been a real selling point for attracting scientists, as well as the financial backing of the state and the collaboration with UConn.

“I’ve been approached by a number of people, at senior levels,” said Liu, who referred to the process of attracting researchers as a mating dance. “You get this buzz. The buzz is there.”

Liu said he is working to hire staff as soon as possible. He said the process can take up to a year for some researchers, especially those who have to wrap up their research elsewhere.

Since the state and Jackson inked their agreement at the beginning of the year, Liu has been working to generate funding for the project.

“In the last few days, we have been talking to potential donors,” he said, referring to private foundations, wealthy angel investors interested in medical research, and the federal government. He said he’s been pleased with the level of interest so far. Much of the money contributed from the donors will help with operating the research facility in Farmington and covering salaries and research equipment, which often becomes obsolete after three years. Liu said the funding from the state will essentially pay for the construction of the building.

According to Jackson officials, Ruan is an author of 70 research papers and holds patents in Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom for DNA analysis techniques he has developed. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China, and a doctorate in plant molecular biology from the University of Maryland.

Jackson’s associate director and chair of research, Bob Braun, welcomed Ruan to the Connecticut laboratory team.

“Yinjun’s broad interests in genome biology, coupled with his innovative approach to developing new research techniques, make him an ideal member of the new JAX Genomic Medicine research team,” Braun said.

Personalized genomic medicine, which tailors treatments to patients based on their genetic makeups, will be a major focus of the new facility, and Jackson’s researchers will team with the UConn Health Center and UConn’s medical school. Yale University’s medical school and hospital also will participate in the research.

Under the agreement between Jackson and the state, the nonprofit, independent research laboratory will be able to buy the land for the Farmington lab for $1. Jackson has created 600 jobs in Connecticut. Preference for the new jobs will be given to Connecticut residents, so long as they meet the job qualifications. Scientists, however, will be excluded from that requirement. International searches are being conducted. Preference is also given to Connecticut-based vendors, under the agreement.

Starting in the 10th year and running 15 years, the state will be able to benefit financially from any intellectual property developed at the new lab. The state will share a portion of net royalties, depending on the proceeds: 10 percent of any net royalty proceeds from intellectual property valued up to $3 million and 50 percent of any net royalty proceeds above $3 million.

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