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Scripps on the Atlantic

Florida lures West Coast powerhouse to set up Palm Beach branch

By | October 14, 2003

The California-based Scripps Research Institute will extend its presence to the East Coast by opening a new annex in Palm Beach, Florida. An exact location has yet to be announced for the planned 364,000–square-foot facility, scheduled for opening in 2006 and expected to cost $140 million, with $50 million in scientific equipment.

"We're very excited about expanding the basic medical research we do here in La Jolla," Scripps spokesman Keith McKeown told The Scientist. "If there's anything that would be different about what we do, it's that there might be a bit more emphasis on drug development, because that is what Governor Jeb Bush is interested in doing in Florida—jumpstarting the biomedical, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries."

The October 9 announcement came after 4 months of discussion with Florida officials, McKeown said.

Scripps is the largest private nonprofit research organization in the United States, with a roughly $280 million operating budget and 2900 employees at its La Jolla, Calif., facility.

"We're approached all the time by institutions in this country and overseas to establish branch operations. But we weren't actively looking to establish a new facility because the conditions offered to us were never quite right. The land was not available, or it was not the right location for us," McKeown said. "And then Governor Bush came to us with a proposal that was very attractive."

The institute will begin research activity in Florida in temporary labs beginning in 2004. Initially, Scripps Florida will employ 31 workers, steadily increasing that number to 545 by its seventh year and to roughly 2800 by its 15th year.

The interim labs as well as the permanent facility with 100 acres or more of land will all be provided by Palm Beach County. The location of the permanent lab in Palm Beach should be announced soon after several places are scouted further, McKeown said.

Governor Bush also announced that he would request $310 million from state lawmakers in late October to recruit staff and equip facilities when the new annex gets up and running. After this initial funding, the Scripps Florida research budget will come directly from National Institutes of Health and other grants.

In addition to Florida's offer of funds, space, facilities, and equipment, McKeown said that an East Coast location was "very attractive as a venue for recruitment of world-class scientists. Many of the scientists travel a great deal, lecturing on the East Coast, Europe, and Latin America. This would give them a place to work a little less strenuously in terms of travel schedules. Having a Florida operation also extends the area in which we might be able to attract philanthropic support."

Scripps Florida will also provide joint degree programs for all universities in the state and is expected to provide on-site research opportunities for local teachers and students from kindergarten to high school.

"We're really looking forward to lots of interaction with Scripps," said Larry Lemanski, vice president of research and graduate studies at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), located in Palm Beach County. "We have a newly developing medical school program, for example, so we're in the process of recruiting another 20 or so faculty members. So we plan to offer people at Scripps appointments at our university."

FAU plans to arrange a trip to La Jolla this week to see how the university can help Scripps with personnel and infrastructure in the short-term transition and in long-term partnerships, FAU -President Frank Brogan said.

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