When then-Gov. Jeb Bush lured the Scripps Research Institute to Florida with a $310 million state subsidy, he made many bold promises: Scripps would create thousands of private-sector jobs, spark demand for millions of square feet of commercial real estate in northern Palm Beach County, elicit a flood of philanthropic giving and reshape Florida’s low-wage economy.
Fifteen years later, none of those predictions have come true. But one part of Bush’s vision is playing out as planned: He pitched Scripps Florida as a way to bring National Institutes of Health grants to Florida, and the Jupiter nonprofit has delivered.
Indeed, Scripps Florida scientists have boosted their haul of NIH grants nearly every year. And with two months to go in the 2018 budget year, Scripps Florida already has set a new annual record.
Through the first 10 months of the federal fiscal year, Scripps Florida brought in $42.6 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. That eclipses the $42.5 million the lab won in all of 2017.
As a new lab, Scripps Florida remains a bit player on the national scene. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore brought in nearly $500 million in NIH grants through the first 10 months of the year, according to NIH data. The University of Florida remains the top NIH winner in the Sunshine State, with $128 million in grants so far this year.
Meanwhile, the rest of Florida’s scientists have fallen off their record-setting pace from last year. Florida researchers brought in $650 million from the NIH last year, the state’s best year by far. But through the first 10 months of this year, the state’s scientists had won just $444 million.
After Bush’s announcement in 2003, state and local taxpayers placed a $1.5 billion bet on biotech, luring nonprofits Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida to Jupiter and VGTI Florida and the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to Port St. Lucie. VGTI failed in 2015, and several other publicly funded institutes have struggled.