April 25, 2015

Biotech

Hot Pursuit

In the wake of the Scripps Research Institute's decision to open a Florida branch in Palm Beach County, the three-county region of Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin took stock of its assets and figured out it was better positioned to piggyback on Scripps' emergence as a research center than it realized.


The region is in a position now to compete for R&D on a national scale, says economic developer Don Root.
The area is home to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, a USDA research facility and a Smithsonian research facility. In addition to serving as the home of Indian River Community College, St. Lucie County also hosts branches or programs of the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southeastern University and Barry University. Meanwhile, Florida State University announced it would open a branch campus of its new medical school at IRCC.

Now marketing the region as the "Research Coast" rather than the "Treasure Coast," economic developers are pursuing two big prizes. The federal government is creating a $450-million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to replace its aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y. The facility, which will conduct research to create vaccines and drugs, has drawn interest from 14 applicants in seven states. Officials are expected to narrow their choices down by the fall.

In addition, the region is also courting the non-profit medical researcher Burnham Institute, which is headquartered near Scripps in La Jolla, Calif. The county is unofficially offering to invest $80 million, including $44 million to build a complex for Burnham. Orlando is the only known competitor for Burnham.

Don Root, executive director of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, says the region is now confident it can compete for R&D development on a national scale. "We aren't comparing ourselves to the Research Triangle or to Boston or to California," he notes. "We are creating our own center of gravity here."

Tags: Southeast, Treasure Coast

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