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."