02 Nov Florida: Investing Heavily in Biotechnology – Governor uses state funds to attract large biotech companies
Editor’s Note: Mike Rosen visited Florida in mid-October. Late in the month, Florida Governor Jeb Bush was able to convince the Florida legislature after closed-door negotiations to create and pass a bill creating a $369 Million fund to attract and build an East Coast Location for the Scripts Research Institute to focus on biotechnology research and development. Besides the size of the deal it is an example of a state that successfully attracted a private company to move to Florida by offering to use public money to pay the company’s salaries and other expenses. The incentive package for La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Research Institute included $310-million worth of salaries, lab equipment and other expenses, plus $59-million more in interest the money is expected to earn. The money comes from federal economic stimulus dollars Bush is also seeking to create a separate $190 million dollar fund to attract other private biotechnology business.
I was recently in Miami as part of an alumni activity. I lived in Miami for four years from 1981 to 1985 while working for Pfizer. At that time, Pfizer had its Latin American headquarters in Coral Gables, Fla. as did many other American pharmaceutical companies such as Searle, Dow Chemical, Sterling-Winthrop and Schering-Plough.
Pfizer sponsored my desire to get an M.B.A. at that time and off I went to the University of Miami’s School of Business. Soon after, the corporate pendulum swung toward centralization and most of these companies terminated their Latin American regional headquarters and eliminated these offices.
Strangely enough, the corporate pendulum is swinging back again and Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, has just recently established a Latin American base in Miami.
Now fast forward about 20 years. Donna Shalala is the president of the University of Miami and announced a fund-raising program to raise $1.2 billion for its endowment. An interesting factoid is that the university has already raised $552 million of the money including $33 million from Phil Frost, a trustee of the university and the chairman and CEO of IVAX.
IVAX is one of the largest generic companies in the U.S. If you’ve read my past columns, you’ll note I said that generic pharmaceutical companies can be very profitable. Frost is also a doctor who originally came to Miami to work for the university’s school of medicine and later left and started IVAX.
For those of you with good memories or name recognition, Donna Shalala was the former secretary of health and welfare under the Clinton administration and was one of the few cabinet members who stayed the course during both terms of the Clinton government.
Her other claim to fame is her role at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was chancellor. While there, she had a big push to develop the university’s school of medicine, hospital and scientific activities. Of the $1.2 billion that the University of Miami is planning to raise over the next three to four years, more than $700 million of it will go to the school of medicine.
While I was in Miami, I had the chance to see the new Braman Breast Cancer Institute, which is part of the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. That center has just been funded with $5 million from private sources and with another $8 million coming from the university itself.
The institute will combine not only clinical care for patients but research efforts into new pathways to diagnose and treat the disease. Additionally, the institute has 14 trials under way with new cancer therapies and a tumor bank.
The new head of the institute, Joyce Slingerland, was brought down from the University of Toronto in Canada. In talking with Slingerland, she made it clear that new drug discovery and development were part of the mission of the Braman Breast Cancer Institute.
Right next to the Breast Cancer Institute is the Paralysis Center, which is also receiving heavy funding for its research efforts to help paralyzed patients walk again. The University of Miami’s School of Medicine is also known for its research and development in diabetes and eye care.
That same day, I picked up the Miami Herald and read about how the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, Calif. is looking to establish an east coast facility just north of West Palm Beach with strong support from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. It appears that Florida will be providing upwards of $500 million in grants and tax credits to Scripps to lure it to Florida and this location.
For those of you who know Scripps in San Diego, it is one of the leading research institutions on the west coast and has historically been one of the drivers of the biotech industry in the San Diego area. It is also one of the reasons why American, European and Japanese pharmaceutical companies have set up research facilities close by.
As one of his selling points to Florida’s legislature for approving this package to lure Scripps, Gov. Bush in the Herald article cited the expectation that this would create new jobs from the creation of biotech companies in Florida. Not discussed was whether Scripps would bring over to Florida an east version of its world-renowned Scripps Oceanographic Institute.
Interestingly enough, just north of West Palm Beach in Ft. Pierce, Fla. resides the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, which was started by members of the Johnson & Johnson family. Among the many activities of this institute is the discovery and development of new drugs from marine organisms (particularly for the treatment of cancer).
With the exception of an emerging cluster in the Gainesville, Fla. area where the University of Florida is located, Florida hasn’t been a hotbed of biotech development. The university, though, has been noted for its tech transfer in drugs and biotech for years. While Miami does also have some pharmaceutical activity with generic companies like IVAX and Andrx, it generally hasn’t been a significant factor in biotech development.
Still, with the Scripps investment in Florida (with state support) and the University of Miami’s investment in upgrading its medical care and research efforts in medicine, this may well be the catalyst for an emerging biotech sector in Florida.
An analogous situation in the Midwest would be if the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio (likely the Midwest’s top private medical and research institutions) along with the either Washington University or Northwestern University were to announce similar undertakings in another Midwest location with the support of one of our Midwest governors.
Unfortunately, it would not be the Illinois governor but probably either one of the Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri or Michigan governors (all of whom have been more receptive to investment in sciences, research and development, medicine and furthering the development of biotechnology in their states).
Michael S. Rosen is the vice chairman of human health at the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (IBIO). He can be reached at email@example.com. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters. They can be found at www.eprairie.com.
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