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Fifty-eight representatives of South Florida’s biotech community gathered at UM’s Lois Pope Life Center Monday evening to make connections and learn how industry and academia are working together.

First up was UM’s Dr. Jochen Reiser who explained how kidneys work, how they fail and the current state of kidney disease research.

  • Nearly one in four Medicare dollars are going to treat kidney disease, end-stage renal disease and diabetes
  • Research efforts are focusing on cancer and HIV/AIDS
  • There have been no major changes in drugs or treatments since the 1960s

Miami-Dade College Provost Dr. Rolando Montoya presented the full story of how MDC conceived, nurtured and launched their biotechnology program, creating a “pipeline from high school to college.” The program was started when Eduardo Padron told Montoya of Jeb Bush’s successful negotiations with Scripps and how Florida would need to begin preparing students for employment in the field. With only a promise from Padron that the money would come, Montoya, Gita Runkle and Heather Belmont put together a team from the school, brainstormed an outline and began writing grants. As Padron predicted, grants for the program did indeed show up. Now the MDC biotechnology program is rooted and growing. They will have their 2nd Annual Bioscience Forum April 8th.

Barry Rosen, PhD came to FIU to build the Wertheim College of Medicine so he could “write my own job description.” As Associate Dean for Basic Research and Graduate Studies, Rosen also wrote a “job description” for the College of Medicine’s research efforts:

  • Reproduction
  • Environmental Health
  • Community Health

Finally, Yamilet Ceballo presented Beckman Coulter’s talent and hiring perspective. Ms. Ceballo recruits students from MDC, UM, FIU and UF to fill Beckman Coulter’s talent needs.

The 50,000 foot view shows just how South Florida’s educational community has developed a pathway to encourage Florida’s children to find their way from high school to the biotech industry. Imagine, 6 years ago, MDC did not even have a biotech program and FIU’s medical school held it’s first class less than nine months ago. This summer Ms. Ceballo will be deciding which of these kids to hire, and they could find themselves working on instruments Dr. Reiser uses to create new treatments for kidney disease.

Gina Alexis, President, The Alexis Group Consultants and Co-Chair, BioFlorida SE Chapter, and Bart Chernow, UM’s Vice Provost of Technology Advancement, kept the event running on track and on time. BioFlorida’s Stacy Silver pulled all the details together and Russell Allen closed with words about the BioFlorida Institute and BioFlorida’s 13th Annual Conference.

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