LITTLE ROCK - State and federal officials on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding to extend for another five years a partnership to operate a research center for regulatory science.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf signed the MOU in a ceremony at the state Capitol. They agreed to continue a partnership that began in August 2011 to operate the Arkansas Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science at the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson.

The center, in partnership with researchers in government, industry and academia, uses cutting-edge technologies to improve the evaluation of FDA-regulated products.

“It’s startling to think that one of the largest and most important federal agencies, the FDA, has 8 percent of its employees right here in Arkansas at the National Center for Toxicological Research, with about 700 employees — significant, high-paying jobs, researchers that are doing work of national and global significance,” Hutchinson said.

“So the FDA’s presence in Arkansas is very, very important to our nation and to our state, and we want to enhance that partnership,” he said.

Since the August 2011 MOU was signed, research dollars in Arkansas have increased by $4.8 million, Hutchinson said.

“We rely on NCTR when we have questions about safety and effectiveness of products in general and principles of the science that underlie all this,” Califf said. “No one holds all the intelligence, so it’s critical that we have these kinds of alliances.”

The state’s contributions to ACERS are organized and administered by the Arkansas Research Alliance in association with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The work of ACERS is derived primarily from University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in collaboration with the state’s other research institutions.