Scripps Florida unveiled, state biotech cheers
Wake up and good morning. Do we have Scripps Florida to thank for all of these biotech projects? It's hard to deny that the expansion of California-based Scripps Research Institute -- backed by a mega-incentive package assembled by former Gov. Jeb Bush -- has proved a startling catalyst for other biotech businesses across the state. That includes, as this map from the Palm Beach Post suggests, the arrival in the Tampa Bay area of California's SRI International (working in tandem with USF St. Petersburg) and M2GEN (Merck and Tampa's Moffitt collaborating). I would also add the arrival of Draper Lab from Cambridge, Mass., which is setting up substantial shops at USF Tampa and in its own building dedicated to nanotechnology research and production in St. Petersburg.
Why bring this up now? Because last Thursday in Jupiter, Fla., the long awaited -- can you believe we're approaching five years since the Scripps deal was announced? -- Scripps Florida campus officially opened with a ribbon cutting hosted by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who declared 2009 "the year of science in Florida." Thousands of jobs will be created beyond research institutes such as Scripps because of taxpayers' investment, Crist said, and added:
"Now more than ever, as we face growing economic challenges, we must support the growing biomedical and life sciences industries. Florida is one of the top biotech centers in the world."
Let's hope the biotech momentum can continue in the state during such tough economic times. To be honest, upon taking office Crist did not pursue the biotech mission with anything close to the same fervor (and money commitments) as former Gov. Bush. (Here's an editorial tribute to Scripps as Bush's legacy.)
Instead, Crist tried to carve out his own agenda in "green" tech and alternative energy. We'll see if taking the state's eyeballs and wallet off biotech becomes an issue later since every state and developed nation is competing to lure the best and the brightest biotech minds to its borders. (Photo courtesy of Scripps.) Still, the Palm Beach Post makes note here of five breakthroughs at Scripps Florida.
The Scripps Florida opening includes 350,000-square-feet of offices and labs on Florida Atlantic University’s campus at Abacoa. Nearly 300 Scripps employees have occupied the buildings for a month.
Scripps Florida is expected eventually to build larger facilities on a 70-acre parcel reserved for it nearby in Palm Beach Gardens. Scripps President Richard Lerner praised Florida for its support, and for luring the German research organization the Max Planck Society to open a branch next door in Jupiter. “It’s our responsibility to build the houses where science can be done, but we can only hope something will work,” Lerner said, according to the South Florida Business Journal. “It’s the unpredictability of science that makes it so exciting. In these buildings, there will be world-changing advancements. But what those are we don’t yet know.”
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist