Florida lawmakers threaten to gut biomedical grant program

Several years ago, Florida hatched an ambitious plan to woo a number of the world's most prestigious research centers to the state. The general idea was that by making Florida a center of biomedical research, the state would spawn the kind of basic scientific research that biotech start-ups thrive on. And as the researchers arrived in droves at Scripps Florida or Torrey Pines or Sanford-Burnham and so on, the state also offered grants to scientists who could help the research push.

While the research complexes are now a reality, though, some lawmakers want to gut $50 million from their research grant program in an effort to plug a $3 billion hole in the state budget. The James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program warrant $52 million in the Senate budget, but the House is offering only $2.2 million to one of the programs.

The money "gives Florida research a competitive edge," Dr. Robert Holloway, a researcher at Florida Hospital's Cancer Institute, tells the Orlando Business Journal. "The $50 million really goes back into the economy."

State money has been used to prime research programs at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the M.D. Anderson-Orlando Cancer Research Institute and more. "It's about recruiting scientists and keeping intellectual capital in Florida," says Elizabeth Gianini, Sanford-Burnham's vice president of external relations.

- here's the story from the Orlando Business Journal