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University of Miami is banking on brains

Deborah Mash, professor of neurology and molecular and cellular pharmacology at the UM Miller School of Medicine, founded the University of Miami Brain Bank in 1987 after returning to Miami following a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Hospital.

The bank, one of several brain tissue banks in Florida, including one at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, houses more than 2,000 brains.

Thanks to people who donated their brains upon death, researchers have been able to make findings that may impact the way brain-related diseases are treated. Most recently, Mash and her colleagues Detected a neurotoxin in the marine food chain that has possible links to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s diseases. Additional areas of study, made possible by the bank, include autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“We want to identify and understand the pathology so we can fix it,” Mash says. “If we come up with a way to diagnose early … we can modify and slow it (the disease) down.” 

The bank has about 500 living donors on its registry, and while the brains of people who were ill are important to the study of diseases, the bank also needs donations from people who die from other causes. Research requires comparison of diseased brains with healthy ones.

Last September, the National Institutes of Health awarded Mash a grant that could be worth up to $8 million, to be used to expand the bank, increase research access to tissue and educate the public about brain-related diseases and brain donation.

— Millie Acebal Rousseau

Business Briefs

HIALEAH — Hialeah Park Racing & Casino will invest $60 million to expand its casino, adding 235 slot and gaming machines, more poker tables and renovating its outdoor entertainment venue.

MIAMI — Miami developers Ugo Colombo and Diego Lowenstein, through D&P Property Holding, sold a 1.25-acre site on the Miami River at Biscayne Bay for a record $125 million. Riverwalk East Developments, a company owned by German and Gloria Coto, bought the land. The Coto family owns the Coto supermarket chain in Argentina. > Royal Caribbean Cruises ordered a fourth Oasis-class cruise ship for delivery in 2018.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hercules Technology Growth Capital committed to $25.5 million in debt financing for Care- Cloud, which provides cloud-based medical practice management, electronic health records and medical billing Software and services.

Developer Daniel Pena- Giraldi paid $11 million to purchase downtown’s historic post office building, which was built in 1912. Developer Scott Robins had owned the 38,000-sq.-ft. building. > Melo Group plans Melody, a 36-story rental apartment tower with 497 units and 8,500 square feet of restaurant and retail space, on a vacant lot adjacent to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Miami-based Newgard Development Group inked a deal with New York-based Serendipity Labs to incorporate a full-service, 16,500-sq.-ft. shared workspace into its under-construction Centro Condominium in downtown Miami. > Miami Dade College will open an entrepreneurship center and business incubator at its downtown campus in September called The Idea Center @ MDC. > The Knight Foundation is spending $248,000 to bring a location of apprenticeship program Enstitute to Miami; the organization provides one-year paid apprenticeships at companies of all sizes. 

MIAMI BEACH — Doralbased DHB Collins Hospitality paid $10 million to purchase the 45-room, three-story Princess Ann Hotel in South Beach, on Collins Avenue.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY — Jackson Health System, the county’s public health care system, plans $1.4 billion in upgrades to its facilities. The first phase will include patient room renovations, a new rehabilitation hospital and a new pediatric outpatient center, plus equipment and software. The work will be financed in part by $830 million in bonds approved by residents last fall. > Ram Realty Services paid an undisclosed amount to purchase an 80-acre property near Zoo Miami from the University of Miami. Ram will build 900 rental apartments and 300,000 square feet of retail on the site in a mixed-use project called Coral Reef. The company says it plans to grow the development to 125 acres eventually.

MIAMI LAKES — New Jersey-based Vitamin Shoppe paid $85 million to purchase nutritional products retailer Nutri-Force Nutrition, which had been part of the portfolio of Coral Gables-based private equity firm MBF Healthcare Partners. 

Seeing Green

Miami’s commercial real estate is among the nation’s greenest.

  • No. 9 Miami’s ranking among U.S. cities
  • 79 Miami commercial buildings certified with an EPA Energy Star label or LEED certification
  • 19. 4% Portion of Miami commercial real estate certified as green
  • 77% Portion of commercial real estate certified as green in the top “green” city in the U.S., Minneapolis

Source: 2014 Green Building Adoption Index, by CBRE Group and Maastricht University


  • Real estate investment trust company Equity One hired Michael Makinen as COO. He had been COO of Olshan Properties.
  • Appliances maker IMUSA named co-founder Raul Corzo president; he had been the company’s vice president. Co-founder Manny Gaunaurd, who had been IMUSA’s president, is retiring.

Condo Pipeline

A joint venture between Miami Developers Terra Group and Related Group expects to begin construction next year on Park Grove in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. It will include three 20-story condo towers with about 280 units between them. The project will also include retail.

TSG Paragon Development plans to break ground later this year on the 81-unit Cassa Brickell, just off Brickell Avenue.

Integra Investments is developing the eight-story, 40-unit Sereno on the bayfront in Bay Harbor Islands.

Profile Biorasi

Like many companies, Biorasi hit a rough patch during the recession, costing it local and state incentive money that was based on hiring goals. The company, which manages clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, moved to Aventura from Hollywood in 2011, growing to 80 employees by the end of last year. In March, it doubled its space, moving into a 20,000-sq.-ft. office. An offshoot of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Biorasi has focused on optimizing clinical trials for pharmaceuticals. CEO Boris Reznik says the company plans to add 20 to 30 employees to its Aventura office this year.