Florida - Top Five Regions Targeting Biotech Companies, 2008

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Florida finds fresh ways to push the industry

The Sunshine State first hit the Top 5 in 2007. Last year we noted that Florida’s willingness to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to attract satellite operations of leading research institutions was one of the boldest experiments yet in using state money to kick start its biotech industry. Florida already has some of the most productive researchers in the world at its universities, which regularly appear among the top institutions for reaping long lists of important new drug-related patents.

Florida is back this year because they are keeping up the good work, as Palm Beach County and the state bring in the Max Planck Florida Institute. The Max Planck Society earlier announced that it was taking up incentives from the state and county to locate next to Scripps’ new research center, creating a research cluster which is tapping tens of millions of dollars from the state Innovation Incentive Fund. There was also $60 million worth of incentives for Oregon Health & Science University Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute to move into 130,000 square feet and create 200 new research jobs over 10 years. And at the beginning of February, Governor Charlie Crist announced an $80 million grant to the University of Miami to expand its genetics research institution.

Money from the Innovation Incentive Fund will be used to hire in 300 new research and technology posts as the state stakes out a place in the hot field of genetics and disease. The grant is backing two groundbreaking scientists, Margaret Pericak-Vance and Dr. Jeffery Vance, who were wooed from Duke in 2007 as the state pulled out all stops in building up its research muscle. The university, meanwhile, wants to build a biotech complex in downtown Miami.

Florida became a trendsetter in its own right with major investments in new research centers. The Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies gained $90 million in state support to lure it down south with blueprints for a 100,000-square-foot lab. Scripps Research Institute and the Burnham Institute grabbed hundreds of millions of dollars more. All these moves have the potential to make Florida a new biotech hub, matching the brainpower in research with new companies looking to commercialize their discoveries. For a targeted strategy that has delivered quick results, Florida deserves all the recognition it’s being given.