Florida Builds its Position in the Life Sciences - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Florida Builds its Position in the Life Sciences
Florida is making its case for pharmaceutical and biotechnology research and development.

Pharmaceutical Technology

Building global research efforts

The UM Miller School of Medicine is leveraging Miami's position as a business gateway to Latin American as a means to foster pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. In 2007, the school launched the International Medicine Institute to promote education, clinical care, and research on a global scale. University officials have been in discussions with researchers in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.

"This initiative fits with our overriding mission of being a global leader in cutting-edge clinical care, medical research, and education," says Goldschmidt. The institute is in negotiations with developers that are building a medical complex in Cartagena, Colombia. If plans proceed as anticipated, the UM International Medical Institute would be a partner in the hospital by 2009. The research mission of the institute will be set up through the International Medicine Research Center. Initially, the research will focus on cardiovascular disease. Multicenter clinical trials will also be coordinated between the Miller School and the research centers in Latin America.

For capital improvements, the Miller School of Medicine is building a 182,000-ft2, $93.4-million Biomedical Research Building that will house wet-laboratory facilities, MIGH, and the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute.

Fostering business incubation

Perhaps an even more important barometer for UM is its ability to stimulate growth in life science start-ups. "The university's leaders want to augment the translation of the discoveries made at the research bench into commercial products to help people," says Chernow. To that end, UM established the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research, through a $13-million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. UM's sensory research institutes such as the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the University of Miami Ear Institute are also important sources of pharmaceutical research.

The school's strategy is to encourage business incubation in the life sciences through licensing or start-ups. "Commercialization may be via a spin-off company supported by the medical school or venture capital or other means of capitalization," says Chernow. "Licensing is an option; however, if licensed to a company too early you get pennies on the dollar. The value of discovery increases as risk is removed. Here at UM, we are using both strategies."

UM is building a life science park on seven acres adjacent to the Miller School of Medicine, which when completed, will hopefully have 1.4 million square feet of space. Work is expected to be underway in the next year and would be built in three phases based on demand and funding. The complex could house university research, private companies, and the university's start-up biotech companies, which now tally 10.

Converge BioTech (Miami) is an example of a recent UM start-up. The company, which was founded by UM's Camillo Ricordi, scientific director and chief academic offer of the university's Diabetes Research Institute. Ricordi specializes in iselt-cell transplantation, and Converge BioTech developed a hybrid cell transplant therapy effective against diabetes.

Another example is Pique Therapeutics, which was founded by Eckhard R. Podack, chair of UM's Department of Immunology and Microbiology. The company is focused on developing therapeutic vaccines, including cancer vaccines. The company's lead product is a therapeutic vaccine treating nonsmall cell lung cancer.


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