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Feature Articles : Apr 15, 2008 ( )
Creating a Life Science Cluster in Florida
Great Progress Has Been Made in Attracting Research Institutes: Will Companies Follow?
For the last several years, Florida has been named by various industry pundits as one of the top biotech regions. The criteria used to determine this ranking are a bit nebulous, but if the ranking has anything to do with money spent luring life science institutions to the state and an unwavering determination to create a healthcare juggernaut, then the laurels are well deserved.
After 10 years of seeking to become a life science hotspot, things do seem to be finally coming together in Florida. A triumvirate of critical factors have coalesced in the last five years, including cooperation among three southern Florida counties (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach), significant financial input from state coffers, and an abundance of committed individuals.
The Florida Innovation Incentive Fund, created in 2006 under former Governor Jeb Bush, was designed to attract biotech companies and research institutions to Florida and create a leading biotechnology center. The results, so far, have been noteworthy.
In 2003, Scripps was persuaded to establish an east coast branch on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter. Incentives from the state topped $310 million, according to Russell Allen, president and CEO of BioFlorida.
The University of Miami (UM), with Donna Shalala, Ph.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, at its helm is doing its part to advance the life sciences in Florida as well.
Camillo Ricordi, M.D., scientific director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the Miller School and distinguished professor of medicine and professor of surgery, biomedical engineering, microbiology, and immunology at the University of Miami, is especially prolific. While Dr. Ricordi is best known as an expert in cell transplantation, he is also an entrepreneur who recently formed three companies: LifeGate, Jotmate, and Converge.
Keeping Firms in State
Florida would prefer that its home-grown companies stay in Florida, and several steps have been taken to make sure that happens. The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has set up UM Innovation to help nascent firms by constructing a 7.2-acre life science park with about 1.4 million square feet of lab and office space for UM spinoffs as well as non-UM companies.
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