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Florida research institutes are power players in biotech

Scripps Research Institute
Jupiter

Scripps Institute
[Photo: Tom Arban]

Eight years after former Gov. Jeb Bush lured La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Research Institute to Florida, Scripps Florida has hired 445 employees, filed 107 patents, spun off five biotech companies, landed $220 million in federal grants and made significant discoveries that could lead to treatments for Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a rare genetic disease that affects the peripheral nervous system.

Scripps and Tenet Florida are collaborating on an academic medical center on county-owned land in Palm Beach Gardens. The 80-bed acute care hospital will offer specialized medical/surgical services in orthopedics, oncology, senior care and digestive diseases and provide residency and internship opportunities for medical students enrolled at the new FAU med school.

With the opening of a medical school at Florida Atlantic University, Scripps and FAU are now offering a joint M.D./Ph.D. degree.

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Lake Nona (Orlando)

Sanford-Burhnam
[Photo: Sanford-Burnham]
The institute, which opened in 2009, is working with Takeda Pharmaceutical to find new ways to fight obesity and is collaborating with Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals to discover drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease and major psychiatric disorders. Last fall, it partnered with Pfizer's Centers for Therapeutic Innovation to help advance drug discovery efforts. Meanwhile, researchers are making strides in understanding the mechanisms at work in obesity-related diabetes and its cardiovascular complications and finding new potential therapeutic treatments.


Max Planck
Jupiter

Max Planck
[Photo: Max Planck]

The institute is scheduled to open its 100,000-sq.-ft. center later this year. The Munich-based non-profit, which received $188 million in state and county money to build a Florida branch, plans to focus on neuroscience and imaging techniques that let scientists see the interactions of microscopic molecules.

Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies Port
St. Lucie

Torrey Pines
[Photo: Torrey Pines ]


Three years after opening a $40-million research facility, Torrey Pines researchers are landing grants to work on everything from innovative cancer research to finding potentially new non-addictive treatments for acute and chronic pain. Among the
key awards:

» Lawrence Toll, director of neuropharmacology, received $1.86 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to further his research into brain peptide nociceptin, an opioid-related peptide involved in the transition from acute to chronic pain and drug addiction.

» Dmitriy Minod has received a three-year, $360,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health and the James & Esther King Biomedical Research Program to work on lung cancer research and therapy.

» Richard Houghten, founder, president and CEO, won a five-year, $2.34-million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop a new methodology that may accelerate drug discovery in multiple therapeutic areas such as pain management.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Fort Pierce


Amy Wright [Photo: Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute]
Amy Wright and her team discovered a chemical called aphrocallistin from a deep-water sponge collected off Fort Pierce. It blocks the proliferation of cancer cells, including pancreatic, breast and colon cancer cells. Wright and her team have been collaborating with researchers at Sanford-Burnham to create analogs, similarly structured compounds, which are 20 times more potent than the natural product.


SRI
St. Petersburg


[Photo: SRI]

The marine technology unit of Silicon Valley-based SRI International is working on developing anti-microbial and anti-fouling products from marine species. Biofouling, the formation of biological films or adhesions to surfaces, occurs in the ocean when bacteria, algae, barnacles and blue mussels attach themselves to vessels, such as a ship's hull, and degrade their performance. Biofouling can also affect medical devices, instruments and implants by causing a bacterial buildup. While many current anti-biofouling technologies contain toxic compounds and environmentally hazardous agents, SRI is working to develop an environmentally benign, natural solution.