UM ushers in a new era with dedication of its Life Science & Technology Park.
Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt delivers remarks to an audience of almost 300 people at the UMLSTP dedication ceremony, attended by several trustees, administrators, faculty members, and prominent figures from Miami-Dade.
South Florida’s future as a biotech hub got considerably brighter on Tuesday, when the University of Miami officially dedicated its ambitious Life Science & Technology Park (UMLSTP), a new endeavor UM President Donna E. Shalala called “a game-changer” for the Miami Health District and the Overtown community in which it is located.
“This is more than a building,” Shalala said to a crowd of almost 300 people who gathered in the lobby of R+D One, the first of five buildings for the planned eight-acre park. “This is a place where education, research, and technology intersect with discovery and innovation. This is the home of future cures and treatments for some of the most vexing and chronic problems we face today.”
Situated on land once dominated by automobile yards, the six-story, 252,000-square-foot facility houses wet and dry labs, offices, and lab-ready development suites, giving scientists, medical start-ups, pharmaceutical companies, and other ventures the kind of research space that will foster collaboration and create innovations.
“A conduit for international partnerships” is how Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs, dean of the Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, described R+D One.
“This spectacular facility will enable us to move research forward into advanced treatments that could be brought to patients in South Florida, across the United States, and around the world more quickly than ever before,” said Goldschmidt.
“There’s no place that UM’s impact is felt more than in a research park,” said James R. Berens, chairman of Wexford Science & Technology, LLC, the private firm that developed the park.
During the ceremony, College of Engineering Dean James M. Tien noted collaborations between researchers in his field and medicine that the new facility will foster, including engineering-induced pluripotent stem cells that have helped create skin, muscle, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, and other tissues.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the building will give Miami “a foothold in the biotech industry.”
From the building’s first-floor digital mural that shows different species and their corresponding genomic signatures to the third-floor Innovation Center that is home to start-up companies, the building is being called the first of its kind for South Florida, “a focal point for the development of new businesses,” said Jonathan “Jack” Lord, M.D., chief innovation officer at the Miller School.
More than 60 percent of R+D One is now leased, with tenants including Andago, a Spain-based information technology company; medical device firm Emunamedica; Community Blood Centers of South Florida; medical device company DayaMed; national intellectual property law firm Novak Druce + Quigg; the Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida; clinical research firm Advanced Pharma CR, LLC; and the University of Miami Tissue Bank (UMTB).
“We’re ahead of schedule as far as tenants,” said Marcelo Radice, executive director of UMLSTP, during a private tour of the facility held a day before the grand opening. The building’s third-floor Innovation Center, an accelerator space for startups, is almost completely leased out, Radice said, noting that about 14 companies now have office space there. Pre-built laboratory and office space has allowed many of those companies to move in as little as 72 hours.
Located at the intersection of Northwest 20th Street and 7th Avenue, the building opens with a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, with features such as diffusers that dispense cool air only when needed, reducing energy consumption by up to 25 percent, according to Radice.
A master plan for the UMLSTP calls for the eventual development of roughly 1.6 to 2.0 million square feet of lab and office space, making it the largest facility of its kind in South Florida. Phase one of the park is projected to create more than 1,150 direct and indirect jobs, with an additional 2,700-plus direct and indirect positions created by ongoing operations, according to a recent study by the Washington Economics Group.
Tenants who have settled into the building have expressed excitement over their new digs. UMTB occupies a separate two-story structure next to the building as well as the second floor of R+D One, moving over from cramped quarters on the eighth-floor of the Rosenstiel Building on the Miller School campus.
“It’s top drawer,” said H. Thomas Temple, M.D., UMTB director and professor and vice chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics Surgery. “When people come in, it inspires confidence. It makes people realize that we have a lot of pride in what we’re doing.”
Speaking prior to Tuesday’s ceremony, Temple said the UM Brain Bank’s arrival at the building should benefit his unit, given that the two have commonalities. “One is on the recovery side,” Temple explained. “People want to donate brain tissue because the Brain Bank is an extraordinary research enterprise that’s invested in discovering ways of diagnosing and treating a number of degenerative brain conditions. By associating with the Brain Bank it helps facilitate tissue recovery as well.
“Second, we have a lot of expertise and information technology on the distribution side,” he continued. “For the brain bank to be a commercially viable entity, they need a distribution channel and a way of organizing their distribution and making it available to investigators around the world. We do that for them.”
While there are still a few loose ends to tie up (a Balans restaurant and a fitness center are planned for the first floor), R+D One has already made an impact on the Overtown community. Danielle Koping, owner of Liberty Cleaners and Laundry, will open a drop-off location on R+D One’s first floor some time in November or December, staffing the site with two new employees she plans to hire from the neighborhood. And with the additional revenue Koping expects her new drop-off location to generate, she may be able to hire additional workers for her business’s operations plant on 62nd Street and 22nd Avenue in Liberty City, where all of the washing, pressing, and folding services are performed.
“I’m from a community like this (Overtown),” said the Brooklyn-born Koping, who attended the grand opening ceremony, “and that’s why I’ve invested in it. My employees are from this area, and as my business grows, so do opportunities for them.”
Meanwhile, UM, Miami Dade College, and South Florida Workforce are rolling out a new $400,000 jobs program that will train candidates in health care and biotech fields, locating jobs for them in the UMLSTP or the surrounding Miami Health District upon completion of their training.
Miami Mayor Tomas P. Regalado pledged the city’s support and praised UM for helping to “change the future of Overtown.”