Nice to hear. Miami really has great potential to host many TV offices and film studios. Tax incentives would help to bring even more and maybe attract a new TV headquarter or two.
University of Miami details plans for massive life science park
By April M. Havens
The University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine has a 1.4 million-square-foot Life Science Park in the works and is looking for private investors and grants to help pay for it, the school announced last week.
The vast complex would rise on 7.2 acres on Northwest Seventh Avenue between Northwest 17th and 20th streets. School officials say they are completing acquisition of the land from the State of Florida.
The complex could house the University of Miami's sensory research institutes such as the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the University of Miami Ear Institute, private biotechnology and life sciences companies from both the US and Latin America, and many or all of the university's 10 start-up biotech companies, according to medical school officials who spoke at a Beacon Council community breakfast at the UM Wellness Center.
Bart Chernow, vice president of special programs and resource strategy at the medical school, said the park would be a bridge for private life science companies and university researchers. The goal is to "translate discoveries into products that can help people," he said.
The university does that through its Center for Translational Research by both licensing its doctors' and researchers' discoveries to companies that can commercialize them and by creating its own start-up companies for inventions and findings.
For example, start-up Pique Therapeutics has patents pending for a lung tumor vaccine developed by Dr. Eckhard Podack. The vaccine has success in phase one clinical trials, Dr. Chernow said.
A rapid tissue processor, a machine that analyzes samples extracted during patient surgeries or biopsies, has been licensed to a Japanese company and is now on the market, Dr. Chernow said. The machine, which cut processing time from 12 hours to one hour, was developed by Dr. Azorides Morales.
Another discovery by Drs. Sung Hsia, Niven Narain and Indu Persaud, which has three patents pending, may lead to a topical treatment for melanoma skin cancer and muscle pain, Dr. Chernow said.
The university is working with architects on the Life Science Park, and Dr. Chernow predicts work to be underway in two to three years. It is to be built in thirds based on demand, he said.
Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, dean of the Miller School of Medicine, said when he took his position at UM he "wanted to prove Miami could be become a beacon of medicine" and believes "nothing is impossible in Miami."
He envisions a year 2020 "Pan-American" economy, where Latin America becomes a vibrant partner in the life sciences and biotechnology industry and UM establishes research centers in countries such as Argentina.
Life science companies such as Schering-Plough, Boston Scientific, Beckman Coulter, Cordis, Noven Pharmaceuticals and others contribute to the biotech economy in the county, said Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero.
About 17,000 people are employed by more than 1,400 life sciences companies in the county, which contributes about $2.3 billion in total annual revenue, according to the Beacon Council.
Said Mr. Nero, "We ain't just tourism anymore."
MIA traffic up in 2007
South Florida Business Journal
Passenger and cargo volumes at Miami International Airport grew in 2007, and the airport's economic impact increased, two reports from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) said.
MIA saw 33.7 million passengers in 2007, up 3.7 percent. International passenger numbers increased 5.5 percent to 15.5 million, while domestic passengers grew by 2.2 percent to 18.2 million.
International traffic accounted for 46 percent of total passengers handled for the year, rising one percentage point over 2006 and maintaining MIA as one of only two U.S. airports with such high international traffic ratios, the report said.
The airport handled 2.1 million tons of cargo, up 5 percent from 2006. International cargo increased by 5.8 percent to 1.8 million tons, and domestic cargo grew by 1.3 percent to 326,517 tons.
The international freight ratio rose to 85 percent of the airport's total figure.
International trade through seaports and airports in South Florida grew by almost 10 percent in 2007, hitting a new record of just under $80 billion.
UM's bets on biotech future
By SCOTT ANDRON
Could Miami be the next Silicon Valley, the next Research Triangle, the next Boston for the biotechnology business?
Top leaders at the University of Miami medical school say the answer is yes, and they are planning to build a new Life Science Park near Jackson Memorial Hospital as a centerpiece of their bid.
The park will provide office and laboratory space for companies that collaborate with UM researchers, making it easier to turn scientific discoveries into commercial products. At 1.4 million square feet, it would be about the same size as the Dolphin Mall in West Miami-Dade.
''This is a really big project for Miami and for the University of Miami,'' said the dean of UM's medical school, Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt. ``It's way beyond the University of Miami, to tell you the truth. There's an opportunity to develop an area of the economy we have not been particularly strong at, but could be strong at.''
UM President Donna Shalala agreed, saying Miami's economy needs the kinds of jobs a bioscience industry can offer.
''Look, we're not going to attract heavy industry,'' Shalala said. ``We're not going to get major industry to move out of their community and into Miami. What we have to do is grow our own. . . . Our best shot is biotech. I feel very confident we can pull this off.''
That's an ambitious goal. Biotech -- the business of developing profitable products in medical and other life sciences -- is a growing industry but is now concentrated in a handful of major cities. An extensive 2002 study suggested that efforts to create new biotech clusters will be difficult at best.
Six years after the study, co-author Joseph Cortright says the situation hasn't changed: ``Can a university that puts more money into land, space, and equipment expect to grow a biotechnology industry? Our judgment is it is very, very difficult to do that.''
Not that everyone and their dog aren't trying.
FIVE REGIONS IN PLAY
In Florida alone, biotech parks or major biotech developments have been built or are in the works in the Gainesville area, Orlando, Tampa Bay, St. Lucie County and Jupiter.
In the latter case, the California-based Scripps Research Institute is building a campus, thanks in part to hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, something that is not in current plans for the UM project.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval L. Patrick wants to spend $1 billion on biotech research over 10 years, hoping to expand an industry already prominent in his state.
Phoenix, Buffalo, N.Y., and Huntsville, Ala., are making their pitches. Even Kannapolis, N.C., a city struggling to replace jobs lost in the textile industry, is building a biotech park.
SITE NEAR JACKSON
UM's park would sit on about 7.2 acres near Jackson and the medical school, between Northwest 17th and 20th streets and between Seventh Avenue and Interstate 95 in Miami. The university is buying the land, but a private developer will actually build and manage the facility. UM has chosen a developer but isn't naming the company until contract negotiations are complete.
Because of the prominent location beside I-95, the university wants the building to look good. ''This will become the face of the University of Miami medical district,'' said Dr. Bart Chernow, a UM executive and the medical school's point person on the Life Science Park.
The 1.4-million-square-foot facility would be built in stages, with the first roughly 200,000 square feet opening by 2011. The other stages wouldn't be built until there's demand for the space.
UM's medical school will lease some of the space for its own laboratories, Chernow said. But aside from that and the land, the developer will have to make the project profitable on his own.
''We want this built with other people's money,'' said Chernow, adding that the university is not asking for government money for the project at this point.
Besides labs and offices, the park could include businesses to serve nearby workers, such as restaurants or possibly a hotel.
The park would have shared high-tech gadgets useful to other tenants, such as a confocal microscopy unit (high-tech microscopes) and a gene-knockout lab (which would provide genetically engineered test animals).
And it would be constructed as a ''green'' building, meaning that it would be designed to conserve energy and otherwise be environmentally friendly. Preliminary concept drawings prepared for the university show a gigantic solar panel, or photovoltaic band, on the roof. But the actual building might or might not include this feature, depending on the developer and which architecture firm is chosen to draw the detailed plans.
The state Legislature recently agreed to allow the project to bypass the normal planning process for major regional development projects. The project would still require City Hall approval, however, and residents would likely have the opportunity to comment at a public hearing.
BUILDING AN INDUSTRY
Chernow points to several benefits of the project, such as helping UM increase its research funding, helping convert academic research discoveries into life-saving devices, and creating jobs for area residents, including those of nearby Overtown.
''The community that surrounds the campus should benefit from this,'' he said.
But like his boss, Chernow has a more ambitious vision. He figures San Francisco, San Diego and Boston are now the top three hubs of the biotech industry, and he wants Miami to become the fourth.
''I think we are capable of being the next cluster,'' he said. ``I'm cautiously optimistic.''
That part of the plan could prove a lot harder than just building a research park.
Cortright, an economic development consultant from Oregon, studied the geographic distribution of the biotechnology industry in 2002, and reported his findings in a report he coauthored for the Brookings Institution, a prominent Washington think tank.
The study's conclusion: The biotech industry is concentrated in a handful of cities, and everyone else is going to have a hard time breaking in.
Cortright and co-author Heike Mayer compared nine metropolitan areas with the most established biotech clusters -- Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Raleigh/Durham, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington -- with 42 others, including Miami/Fort Lauderdale.
The comparison showed sharp differences between the top nine and the other 42 markets. For example, the top nine collectively received eight times as much National Institutes of Health research funding as the other 42. And the top nine generated 10 times the number of patents as the other 42 during the 1990s.
But Chernow says much has changed since the study was conducted in 2002. For instance, by 2006, UM's med school had 1,525 research projects underway, up 22 percent from five years earlier. And the school had $218 million in outside research funding in 2006, up more than 15 percent from 2001.
And clearly, the university has an impressive stable of leaders behind the biotech project:
• President Shalala. She headed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Clinton before taking the reins at UM in 2001. She recently completed the most successful university fund-raising effort in Florida history, piling up $1.4 billion in seven years. She's well-connected and charismatic, and has been pushing to raise the university's profile. A political scientist by trade, she has a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, and previously ran the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then the nation's largest research university.
• Dr. Goldschmidt. He was a senior administrator at Duke University's med school, before taking the top job at UM's Miller School of Medicine in 2006. Within a year, he had brought in a group of leading genetics researchers from Duke, along with millions of dollars in NIH research funding. Before he was an administrator, he was well-known in medical research circles for his work in the fields of cardiology and cell biology at Johns Hopkins University.
• Dr. Chernow. Goldschmidt hired Chernow, whom he knew from Johns Hopkins, and assigned him to be the point person on the biotech park. Besides working as a researcher and professor, he was the chief executive of GMP Cos., a Fort Lauderdale biotech firm.
Goldschmidt says the university's success at recruiting the genetics specialists from Duke proved that ``Miami is a place where you can recruit great science and the people that perform it.''
He also pointed to Miami's connections with Latin America, which is also developing biotech industries, as an asset. And he said he has trips planned to Israel, China and Europe to recruit participants in the biotech park.
''This is a big project and I'm committed to make it work,'' Goldschmidt said.
And UM already has some doctors conducting ground-breaking research and converting it into commercial products.
Dr. Aaron Wolfson, for instance, has developed a device called a Gynocyte to treat cervical cancer. Unlike older devices, Wolfson says, his applies radiation more narrowly to the afflicted area, is more effective and easier for doctors to use.
And Dr. Camillo Ricordi, head of UM's diabetes research institute, is developing several inventions, including a device he says can implant cells that produce insulin and then protect them from rejection by the body's immune system.
South Florida also has several established pharmaceutical companies, including Stiefel Laboratories in Coral Gables, Noven Pharmaceuticals in South Miami-Dade, and Ivax, now a branch of Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals.
INTEREST TO GROW
Steven Sikes, an entrepreneur who is working with Dr. Ricordi to commercialize two of his inventions, said Miami also has venture capitalists ready to finance new biotech start-ups, and he expects more to come.
Sikes, who has been advising UM on the biotech park, said he was skeptical at first but now believes Miami will become an important biotech hub, perhaps on a par with second-tier biotech centers like Raleigh-Durham.
''I can't say this is going to be anything like Boston or San Diego or San Francisco,'' Sikes said, ``but I really believe it could be in the top six in the United States.''
The trouble is, Miami isn't alone in these aspirations.
''Pretty much everybody wants that. There are many, many regions in the world trying to do this,'' said Lee Fleming, a Harvard University business professor who is studying how high-tech clusters form.
Fleming notes that Silicon Valley's technology hub formed naturally, not by deliberate efforts by universities or governments. Now, dozens of cities are trying to form biotech hubs, and Fleming predicted they will face an uphill fight against the established biotech centers, which could take decades.
''You have to go at it with common sense and realize you're competing with many other regions, and it's hard,'' he said. ``Everybody wants to pull this off. People should be realistic about making it happen. It's just not going to happen overnight.''
Cortright pointed to another key challenge: The nature of the biotech industry is such that a small number of patents lead to viable products and, of those, a handful generate most of the sales. Each effort to develop a product can mean years of testing, which may or may not lead to viable products.
''This is a lottery ticket kind of endeavor,'' he said. ``This is kind of an arduous long shot. . . . Most biotech companies lose money. Most biotechs fail. A few will be wildly successful.''
But that doesn't necessarily mean the biotech park is a bad idea.
''It kind of depends on what your objective is,'' Cortright said. If the university wants to attract more medical researchers and grant funding, the park will help. But, he said, if the university is hoping for a new industry that generates lots of jobs and tax income, then: ``It's a pipe dream.''