Moffitt Basks in the Glow of Biotech


It was decided a Biotech Business Party was the best way to celebration the 20th anniversary of the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.

Instead of cake and streamers - the Institute's lobby was adorned with several information booths featuring local biotech firms already in the area.

Danielle Ruiz with Pinellas County Economic Development says her county has 160 medical device, pharmaceutical and research institutions. And more may be added soon.

RUIZ: We have a lot of interest. We're working on a lot of confidential projects that we'll probably announce in the next couple months.//100 because we have such a strong industry base here there's a lot of interest.

But other Florida communities have dominated the headlines. There was highly publicized, $500-million deal to bring Scripps to Palm Beach County in 2003. Just last month, Florida offered $300 million to the Burnham Institute for Medical Research to open a laboratory in Orlando.

But instead of competition - Dr. Jack Pledger - deputy director of the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute - sees the opportunity for collaboration.

PLEDGER: We're very delighted to see Scripps and the Burnham cancer move to Florida. We believe that these corporations will greatly increase Florida's opportunity not only to provide a final solution to cancer but also to provide tremendous economic boost to this region. However, I would point out that the Moffitt Cancer Center has been here 20 years. Our cancer research and our funding is equivalent to that or greater than Scripps and much greater than the Burnham Cancer Center.

He pointed out that U.S News and World Report has ranked Moffitt as high as the 10th-best cancer center in the U.S. And it is one of only 39 comprehensive cancer centers recognized by the National Cancer Institute.

PLEDGER: Let me put it another way. The Moffitt Cancer Center's reputation has increased to a point where I keep expecting the State of California to ask us to open a Moffitt extension in San Diego. I don't know which person may want to go out and run it I know I certainly want to stay here in Florida. But let's watch for that announcement.

But, he isn't sitting by the phone waiting - instead - he says Moffitt is proactively courting new partners and collaborations. For example - it sponsored the Business of Biotech bash inviting firms such as Genzyme Genetics.

Dr. David DeBauche of Genzyme says the University of South Florida was a biotech incubator long before Scripps moved to Palm Beach.

DeBAUCHE: Our laboratory actually grew out of originally out of the USF laboratory here. Florida is actually one of our leading clinical markets so that's why we would like to have a presence here.

Genzyme - an original spinoff company from MIT - does diagnostic, genetic testing for children with birth defects and offers therapeutic treatments for genetic disorders. It has five laboratories in the U.S. and several more facilities worldwide.

DeBAUCHE: We have a lot of hopes for this area in terms of growth. I would like to see a lot of growth in biotech in the bay area.

As would 20-year-old Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.

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