FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


University of Miami is betting on bioscience

University of Miami
Elkin M. Vasquez, operations manager at the University of Miami Tissue Bank, an anchor tenant at the park, packages periodontal bone. [Photo: Jenny Abreu]

The University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park opened in September with about 60% of the office and lab space leased in its $107-million first building. It's the beginning of what UM and developer Wexford Science & Technology hope will become a serious life science and technology "ecosystem."

Development of the park is a gamble for both Wexford and UM. Set on eight acres owned by the university and adjacent to its Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, the park is supposed to house five buildings totaling between 1.6 million and 2 million square feet. That's a lot of space in a region that remains a tough sell to bioscience or tech firms, since it lacks the venture capital community or the critical mass of firms in Silicon Valley or Boston.

Wexford says it was willing to take the gamble because the park is in the middle of the second-largest concentration of medical facilities in the U.S., behind only Houston. In addition to the UM medical school, the neighborhood includes Jackson Memorial Hospital and UM Hospital.

Joe Reagan, Wexford's vice president and regional executive, says tenants are attracted to the easy access to UM, to physicians and hospitals for clinical trials and to Latin America. Several of the bioscience and technology companies in the first building are foreign companies establishing their first U.S. foothold or doing U.S. clinical trials. Others are supervising ongoing trials in Latin America. Spain-based IT company Andago, which works in e-government and has a suite of health-related software and monitoring products, is locating its first U.S. office at the park. "It enabled us to meet companies that are at our same starting level to identify opportunities for collaboration, and the University of Miami Medical Center itself is pioneering a lot of technologies," says Neal Stine, Andago's chief health and wellness officer.

"We're at or even a little ahead of schedule in terms of what we had budgeted for the startup and stabilization of the building," Reagan says. Wexford and UM expect to break ground on the park's second building, a hotel with room for medical offices and clinical facilities, around the second quarter of 2012.