Life sciences a major objective for economic developers in the region

LAKEWOOD RANCH – When the nation’s largest independent oncology / hematology practice decided to build a new facility, it landed on the young but growing life sciences campus in this planned community.

The Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute last month opened a state-of-the-art, $ 16 million cancer center inside CORE at Lakewood Ranch, the 305-acre biomedical research park that its owners and promoters of regional economic development hope to become a magnet for scientific, educational and research organizations.

CORE, short for Collaboration Opportunities for Research and Exploration, is a key part of efforts to develop the region’s life sciences sector, known for average salaries of $ 70,000 per year and the type of industry that contributes to build a more diverse and robust economy.

According to the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp.

The Bradenton-area EDC was one of only two economic development organizations in Florida to attend the BIO International Convention for the Global Science Industry Conference and Exhibition in June in Boston.

EDC President / CEO Sharon Hillstrom said the region and CORE were presented in eight meetings with companies to present them on Manatee County and the diversity of life sciences entities already present.

“We knew we had a diverse group of companies in the industry here, but we didn’t realize how unusual this was for a relatively small market that also offers an extremely attractive quality of life,” he said. she declared. “The life science players in our region range from medical R&D to the manufacturing of medical devices, from nutraceuticals to agriculture. Industry experts have told us that this is a very rare and attractive. “

Some companies have shown “a lot of interest” in the area, but Hillstrom noted that these economic efforts can take a long time to produce results.

A consultant previously told local business developers that “no one owns life sciences on the west coast of Florida.”

Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty President Kirk Bolyston said on Wednesday efforts continued to attract these businesses to the Sarasota-Manatee area.

“We are working diligently on it, moving forward, working with EDCs and local educators here, as well as with local businesses and foreign and international companies, to see who we bring here to CORE,” he told a group of 80 people attending the University of Florida and University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee “BioMed: From Research to Reality” Luncheon.

The event was hosted by UF Innovation Station-Sarasota, in partnership with the two universities, Manatee and Sarasota County EDCs, the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and CORE.

Dr. Christine E. Schmidt, chair of the biomedical engineering department at UF, spoke about two products that were developed and brought to market while she was at the University of Texas at Austin. One is a dedicated peripheral nerve repair graft currently manufactured by AxoGen Inc. of Alachua which took eight years to reach the market. The other is a post-surgical adhesive used for protecting the tendons of the hands that has been developed over 10 years and is being launched by start-up Alafair Biosciences in Austin.

“Success is more than a good idea,” Schmidt said. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of time. It’s not fast, it’s not easy.”

At CORE, the facility for the Florida Cancer Specialists, being built by Optimal Outcomes of St. Petersburg, will be 10,820 square feet, with 38 chemotherapy chairs, 10 examination rooms and an imaging room. stationary comprising a Siemens PET / CT unit. It will also provide access to clinical trials.

“The healthcare industry is placing more emphasis on a patient-centered delivery model that includes better and better located facilities,” said Dr. William Harwin, Founder and President of Florida Cancer Specialists. “FCS will be able to offer patients the best of functional, modern space and cutting-edge technologies.

Mercedes Medical, a female-owned and operated medical supplies company that has operated in Manatee since 1993. The company inaugurated a $ 10 million head office and distribution center earlier this year that is expected to be completed by end of the year. year.

The company supplies hospitals, doctors and laboratories with beakers, cylinders and flasks; microscopes, scalpels and centrifuges; medical records, exam room supplies and pharmaceuticals, to name just a few of its long list of products.

Developments are also underway on associated services. Orlando-based Tavistock Development Co. is building The Green at Lakewood Ranch, a 37-acre mixed-use development within CORE that will soon offer a wealth of retail options. The 525,000 square foot project will include 300 multi-family residences and more than two dozen businesses in 150,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space. Major tenants include Earth Fare Specialty Grocer and LA Fitness Center.

CORE’s overall plan calls for 1.69 million square feet of research and laboratory buildings, 474,000 square feet of office buildings, 971,000 square feet of university teaching and research programs, or a high-tech high school in partnership with a scientific research firm, a 300-room hotel and conference center, and a residential / commercial / commercial component.

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