The University of Florida and California-based Scripps Research have signed a definitive agreement to welcome the Florida branch of the science powerhouse into the research arm of UF’s academic health center — a step aimed at accelerating the translation of basic scientific discoveries into clinical advances that benefit human health in the state and beyond.
The integration is intended to celebrate and strengthen ongoing research at Scripps Florida, which has a stellar global reputation, while leveraging opportunities to explore avenues of mutual interest and providing Scripps with a strong clinical partner. The goal? To build on the excellent scientific work taking place to more expediently unlock clinical advances that improve outcomes for patients in the state and around the world, officials from both organizations said.
“We are excited to work collaboratively with our colleagues at Scripps to rapidly take discoveries made at the bench to the bedside, where they can have the most benefit to humanity,” 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. “We are looking forward to cultivating a culture of innovation that will extend from the outstanding science already underway.”
As part of the agreement, Scripps will transfer all assets associated with the 30-acre Scripps Florida campus in Jupiter, situated within Palm Beach County’s innovation corridor — property, buildings, equipment and adjacent 70-acre tract to the University of Florida. The campus, one of the top National Institutes of Health-supported research centers in the state, includes 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.
In addition, UF and UF Health have committed to work with Scripps Florida leadership to immediately invest in the new entity by hiring additional faculty; these new recruits will come on board within the next five years and will complement the existing talented pool of scientists there, possibly expanding efforts in the artificial intelligence domain by hiring faculty focused on areas such as data science and AI. Other natural areas of collaboration with colleagues in other parts of UF Health potentially include cancer, drug discovery, immunology and infectious disease, neuroscience (including Alzheimer’s and other aging-related diseases, as well as autism), HIV/AIDS, and structural biology and molecular medicine.
“I would like to thank our Board member Dr. Herbert Wertheim on behalf of Scripps Research for making this unique partnership possible for Scripps and the University of Florida by taking this opportunity directly to President Fuchs. Without his effort and commitment, this transfer would not be happening. This is truly an example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts,” said Peter Schultz, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Scripps Research, based in La Jolla, California. “Florida supported us in establishing a world-class institute, and Scripps Florida together with UF, as part of the greater Florida research and education community, will have a tremendous impact on scientific research and human health.”
Scripps Florida researchers are regularly heralded for their pioneering discoveries that have led to hundreds of patents and numerous spinoff companies. They are behind a robust research profile, with nearly $50 million in NIH funding and over $67 million in total research funding, which includes industry support.
As part of the arrangement, a site director and local leadership council will be appointed for the entity, which will be organized and operated independently and report to Nelson. Scripps scientists will join the UF faculty and also will retain an additional Scripps title.
“This integration between the University of Florida and Scripps Florida will create unprecedented collaboration among some of the world’s most brilliant and talented minds to address the biggest biomedical challenges we face today,” said Mori Hosseini, UF Board of Trustees chair. “Not only will this produce enormous scientific and health-related advancements for the entire world, it also will lead to tremendous economic development and further elevated national and global stature for the state of Florida.
“We are exceptionally grateful for the efforts of Herbert Wertheim who helped bring this tremendous opportunity to Scripps and the university,” Hosseini added. Wertheim is a member of the Scripps Research Board of Directors, a UF alumnus, founding chair of UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and a longtime supporter of UF.
UF President Kent Fuchs said the stage is set for the new entity to be a significant force for progress and for the door to open to new scientific and tech collaborations with others, including other State University System institutions such as Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities.
“With our deep faculty benches at UF, UF Health and Scripps — along with our combined resources and impressive research capacity — I fully expect we will see absolutely remarkable discoveries in the years to come that will benefit the state, the nation and the world,” Fuchs said.