The Max Planck Society’s first and only North American institute is nearing completion of its $64 million permanent facility in Jupiter, FL, where 80 staffers will focus on research into the structure, function, and development of neural circuits.

Staffers have begun moving into the new 100,000-square-foot permanent home of The Max Planck Florida Institute, which is relocating within the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) from temporary space. The FAU campus is also home to the Scripps Florida Research Institute, which is already collaborating with the university and Max Planck, David Fitzpatrick, Max Planck Florida’s scientific director and CEO, told the South Florida Business Journal.

 A grand opening is scheduled for December 5 for Max Planck Florida, which broke ground some two years ago.

Max Planck chose to build in Jupiter, FL, following approval by Florida and Palm Beach County officials of a combined $188 million in tax incentives. Max Planck received the incentives under an agreement tied to creating at least 135 jobs by March 2015.

Ivan Baines, COO of the Max Planck Florida Institute, told the newspaper that the institution is on track to meeting its 135-employee workforce goal, with additional researchers set to be hired in the coming months. The additional researchers will allow Max Planck Florida to grow from its current seven research groups to 11, not counting additional guest research teams.

The research groups specialize in disorders of neural circuit function; mechanisms of synaptic signaling and computation; functional architecture and development of visual cortex; digital neuroanatomy; cellular organization of cortical circuit function, neuronal signal transduction; and molecular mechanisms of synaptic function.

Max Planck and Scripps are among a half-dozen research institutions – most from the West Coast –showered with a combined roughly $1.5 billion in tax incentives by the Sunshine State and localities in return for building new facilities in Florida.

Officials have sought to justify the tax breaks by citing an ongoing quest to wean Florida’s economy away from seasonal businesses such as tourism and agriculture, as well as the above-state-average salaries paid to biopharma professionals. Florida’s 78,062 bioscience jobs paid an average of $71,150 in 2010, compared with the state average of $40,558 for all jobs, according to a study released this week by the Battelle Memorial Institute at the 2012 BIO International Convention.

The same study also revealed that the number of bioscience jobs in Florida decreased by 1.1% between 2007 and 2010, largely due to the recession and sluggish recovery.


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