September 2, 2014

Biotech's Welcome Mat

Ellen Forman | 2/1/2008

neutrophils granulocytes
RESEARCH PROJECTS: Max Planck researchers discovered how the neutrophils granulocytes (above) form a snaring network that traps bacteria and investigate the evolution of the bacterium Salmonella typhi (below), which causes typhoid fever.
[Photos: Max Planck]

bacterium Salmonella typhi

Sometimes, it’s best to come second — even in cutting-edge fields like biotech.

Tumult and strife greeted the Scripps Research Institute’s planned entrance into Palm Beach, as the county commission spent more than a year haggling over a site for the California-based institute. Location, royalty agreements, state and county incentive funds — all became sources of contention until the ink was dry on a plan to put Scripps on Florida Atlantic University’s Jupiter campus.

Contrast that to the frictionless welcome received by the Max Planck Institute of Germany, which received a go-ahead in December for $94 million in state innovation incentive funds to build its first U.S. facility.

When the Palm Beach County Commission met to discuss a preliminary Max Planck incentive package, “The meeting was practically a pep rally,” says Bob Rohrlack of Enterprise Florida. Commissioners conditionally approved $86.9 million for the non-profit over 10 years, plus agreed to lease six acres from FAU to build the society’s 100,000-sq.-ft. facility right near Scripps.

On a visit to Palm Beach County, Max Planck Society President Peter Gruss made it clear that Scripps’ presence in Palm Beach was a tremendous draw and would complement Max Planck’s bioimaging work. He envisions synergies with its future neighbor in biochemistry and drug discovery research.

Max Planck has 24,000 employees in 78 locations, and 17 Nobel laureates since 1948. It has spun off 72 companies. Its license agreements, which Palm Beach County hopes to share in someday, now bring in $20 million a year.

Tags: Southeast

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