Growth in biotech trade show mirrors growing industry

eda provided the engineering and surveying services for the new Foundation Park building, which will serve as office and lab space for biotech companies in Alachua. We’ve posted Gainesville Sun article reporting on the project.


ALACHUA — Signs of a growing biotech industry could be seen in all directions this week during the 12th annual BioFlorida Celebration of Biotechnology on the grounds of RTI Surgical at Progress Park.

Three more tents were added this year to accommodate 94 tables, up from 80 last year, to house the trade show’s biotech companies and businesses offering lab equipment, patent attorneys and construction services, among others.

Down the hill and across U.S. 441, site work continued to prepare for construction of the first of four buildings in Foundation Park, offering much-needed lab and office space for growing companies such as Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation.

Construction is well underway on the 165,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for Nanotherapeutics west of Progress Park, and RTI has been moving some operations into its new 41,000-square-foot logistics and technology center next to its main office building.

Nancy Bryan, president and CEO of BioFlorida, said industry growth is statewide, pointing to statistics which show that the number of biotech companies doing research and development in Florida grew 93 percent in six years, from 136 to 262 in 2014.

Over the last year, two immuno-oncology companies from California have opened in the Tampa area and Lupin, an India-based pharmaceutical company, expanded in Broward County.

“The biotech sector in general is growing, but also Florida has been discovered as a good place to do business, and in biotech there’s a lot of research going on in Florida,” said Patti Breedlove, director of the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator.

David Day, director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing, said the new Foundation Park will provide a quarter-million square feet of space at a time when the area was in danger of losing local companies.

“That’s more space for our companies, holding them here instead of bleeding jobs out of the community,” he said.

Likewise, the developers who built buildings in Progress Park in past years gave incubator companies room to grow and accelerated the biotech industry and related service industry after the park got off to a slow start, said Win Phillips, special adviser to the president at UF and formerly vice president of research.

“Someone starts a business. They make stuff. They sell stuff. They need services. They need lawyers. They need accountants. They need secretaries. It promotes the whole economy,” he said.

Phillips credited the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s economic development efforts, Gainesville’s culture of entrepreneurship and more cooperation between UF and other local entities for taking advantage of UF research to grow the economy.

RTI spun out of the UF Tissue Bank in 1998 and opened in Progress Park.

“We’ve grown from a small tissue bank with less than 20 employees when the company first was planted here in the park to 1,100 employees now worldwide. The vast majority of them are here in Alachua,” said Carrie Hartill, executive vice president and chief scientific officer for RTI.

During his keynote speech, Randy Scott of venture capital firm HealthQuest Capital recognized Breedlove, who will be retiring by the end of the year. During her 17 years, the Biotech Incubator has gone from a fledgling incubator to one recognized as the best in the world, with member companies attracting over $1.5 billion in financing and grants, he said.