By Melanie Ross
JUPITER — In a move designed to marry the clinical and educational expertise of the state’s flagship university with one of the world’s premier biomedical research enterprises, the University of Florida and Scripps Research have announced they are in talks to integrate the Florida-based branch of Scripps Research with the research arm of UF’s academic health center.
Discussions have proceeded swiftly because UF is ideally positioned to expand on Scripps Florida’s successful research track record to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that improve outcomes for patients in the state and around the world, said officials from both organizations.
“Our shared vision for propelling biomedical research forward is based on the great mutual respect our two institutions have for each other,” said Peter Schultz, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Scripps Research, based in La Jolla, California.
“UF is an outstanding partner for Scripps Florida — the two institutions have complementary basic and translational research capabilities and strengths which, when combined, will enhance their collective reputation and impact on Florida,” Schultz added. “We have built an outstanding research institute in Scripps Florida with generous support from the state and from local communities and we believe it will have its biggest impact on Florida and greatest opportunity for further growth as part of UF, one of the country’s leading research and educational institutions.”
Details of the agreement will be finalized over the next few months and will build on existing research collaborations UF has had with Scripps and the organizations’ complementary strengths, said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health, the university’s academic health center.
Initial efforts include appointing key leadership positions; UF and Scripps Research plan to name Patrick Griffin, Ph.D., to head the scientific arm of the new research endeavor. Griffin is currently chair of the department of molecular medicine at Scripps Florida and directs its Translational Research Institute.
“Our shared vision focuses on improving the health of humanity and developing innovations to optimize quality of life,” Nelson said. “With this venture, we will both be positioned to take medical research to the next level in a way that is win-win for the people of Florida and beyond.”
The 30-acre Scripps Florida campus in Jupiter is situated within Palm Beach County’s innovation corridor and houses more than 40 faculty-led laboratories supported by a 500-member team dedicated to understanding an array of illnesses and seeking to generate effective treatments. Its researchers are regularly heralded for their pioneering discoveries that have led to hundreds of patents and numerous spinoff companies. Scripps Florida has a robust research portfolio, with nearly $50 million in National Institutes of Health funding and over $67 million in total research funding, which includes industry support.
UF ranks among the top research-intensive public universities in the country, with research expenditures totaling more than $942 million during the past fiscal year.
Over time, the relationship will generate additional jobs, further catalyzing economic development, officials said. Other natural areas of collaboration could potentially include cancer, drug discovery, immunology and infectious disease, neuroscience (including Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related disorders), and structural biology and molecular medicine.
UF President Kent Fuchs said the deal opens the door to building off Scripps Research’s platform of excellence and teaming up with other State University System institutions such as Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities on various programs.
“This would be the next logical step, adding to the impact Scripps Research has already made in Florida,” Fuchs said. “They have been great stewards of the state’s investment in biotech, and we look forward to partnering on this next phase to add value and grow additional research and tech collaborations.”
“This news is welcome because it aligns with the commitment of Florida’s public universities to work together for the greater good,” said John Kelly, Ph.D., president of Florida Atlantic University. “FAU is looking forward to expanding on our existing collaborations with UF and Scripps Florida by identifying educational and research opportunities that leverage our shared strengths. These include exploring common interests in areas like autism, neuroscience, molecular biology and data science to advance medicine.”
Recent academic health collaborations with FAU span at least seven colleges at UF on a range of topics. Highlights include the 1Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, which UF leads in collaboration with FAU and others. The 1Florida ADRC received a five-year $15 million NIH grant in 2020 to expand its work with a heightened focus on further understanding dementias in diverse populations. In addition, UF and FAU collaborate on the NIH-funded National Drug Early Warning System coordinating center to identify emerging drug abuse trends.