Florida cuts funding for Torrey Pines in Port St. Lucie


Florida has cut off incentive funding slated to go to one of the biotech centers lured to the state a decade ago because of failure to meet job-creation goals over three consecutive years.

But the state Department of Economic Opportunity isn’t coming, just yet, for any taxpayer-funded equipment from the still-open research institute.

The state agency on Monday advised Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in Port St Lucie that it intends to move the balance of the remaining incentive money, approximately $3.5 million, into the state general-revenue fund.

“Should Torrey Pines continue to maintain significant operations in Florida, DEO will refrain from executing on its security interest in Torrey Pines equipment that was purchased with state funds,” Karl Blischke, director of the agency’s Division of Strategic Business Development, wrote in a letter to the institute.

Torrey Pines officials responded Wednesday that they are committed to keeping the lights on through next year and to the terms of a 20-year agreement with the state that was signed in November 2006.

“While no one envisioned the impending economic situation that occurred following the start of the agreement, TPIMS has maintained its mission to develop a strong biotechnology community throughout Florida and has tangibly demonstrated its commitment to Florida in many ways,” the institute said in a letter signed by founder & CEO Richard Houghten and President & Chief Operating Office Gregory Welmaker.

They noted that the institute has worked to secure money for its research through grant funding, commercial partnerships and philanthropy.

Last year, Torrey Pines reported having 85 employees, far short of the 189 required.

After Florida rolled out funding to bring the San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute to Palm Beach County and what is now known as the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute to Orlando, the smaller La Jolla, Calif.-based Torey Pines opened a facility and moved its headquarters to Port St. Lucie, lured by the promise of $32 million in state incentives.

The incentive money was part of approximately $1.3 billion spent a decade ago by state and local governments to increase biotech research in Florida, an effort that hasn’t materialized as envisioned.

Port St. Lucie, which was a runner-up in landing Sanford Burnham, put up $45.6 million and built a 107,00-square-foot facility for Torrey Pines.

The Department of Economic Opportunities’ action on Torrey Pines follows a request last month by the state agency for Sanford Burnham to return half of the $155.3 million it was awarded in 2006, along with equipment purchased with tax dollars.

The state agency noted that Sanford Burnham, after failing to work out a deal to turn over the facility to the University of Florida and not reaching job-creation goals, has “assumed the posture it will leave Florida.”

Counsel for Sanford Burnham, in a letter on Oct. 31, acknowledged that a deal for the University of Florida to take over the operations at Orlando’s Lake Nona had fallen through after 10 months of talks, but that no decision had been made about the future of that facility.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Report: Toronto billionaire, wife found dead at their home
Report: Toronto billionaire, wife found dead at their home

Toronto billionaire and philanthropist Barry Sherman and his wife were found dead in their mansion Friday afternoon, CTV reported Saturday. The Toronto Police Service is investigating the deaths as "suspicious." During a news conference Friday, Constable David Hopkinson would not identify the two bodies. Hopkinson said police, fire units...
Taco Bell to add self-serve ordering kiosks
Taco Bell to add self-serve ordering kiosks

Taco Bell is ready to give its customers more access in 2018. The fast-food chain will be increasing its digital presence and will add self-serve ordering kiosks, The Orange County Register reported. Taco Bell, which operates more than 6,700 restaurants, said it has reached an agreement with its franchisees to fund new services that provide customers...
Olympian Ryan Lochte grateful for fresh start
Olympian Ryan Lochte grateful for fresh start

Ryan Lochte’s son and fiancee are clearly the lights of his life, and a new photo of his bouncing baby boy is proving that. Lochte, 33, regularly gushes about his 6-month-old son Caiden Zane and his fiancee Kayla Rae Reid on his Instagram page. The highly decorated Olympic swimmer said he’s grateful for a fresh start after landing in hot...
Apple wants to know your heart rate, for science
Apple wants to know your heart rate, for science

Apple’s trying out something entirely new: a medical study. Apple Watch users are now able to enroll in a new study Apple is conducting with Stanford University School of Medicine, which uses the device’s heart-rate monitor to check for an irregular heart rate. While others have used Apple’s software and devices in medical studies...
Working and playing with plants helps cope with illness, disabilities
Working and playing with plants helps cope with illness, disabilities

ST. LOUIS — Half-reclined and wrapped in a shawl, Lauren Underhill spins a sprig of red-blossomed pineapple sage with her left thumb and index finger. Under the shawl, a catheter tube connects to a vein infusing her bloodstream with a cocktail of anti-cancer drugs. Underhill, who has stage 4 colon cancer, spends up to five hours at the Siteman...
More Stories