Cancer patients soon will benefit from a one-stop research and treatment center through a University of Central Florida project that also returns $50 million invested by local governments and the developer of Lake Nona Medical City.
This week, the Orlando City Council, Orange County commissioners and the UCF Board of Trustees approved the transfer of the Sanford Burnham Prebys building in Lake Nona to UCF so the university can repurpose the facility into a comprehensive cancer research and treatment center.
The new UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center will house cancer researchers, clinical trials and treatment for patients. It will be next door to UCF’s new hospital, set to open by early 2021, and adjacent to the UCF College of Medicine.
UCF President Dale Whittaker said the timing of the cancer center fits perfectly into the university’s Academic Health Sciences Center at Lake Nona, which ultimately will be home to many of UCF’s health-related programs. The university’s goal is to improve patient care by increasing interprofessional training and research.
“The cancer center will be part of a growing health and wellness ecosystem at Lake Nona benefitting our students, faculty researchers and – most importantly – patients from across our community,” Whittaker said. “This is an environment that naturally lends itself to collaboration and meaningful partnerships as we all move toward the goal of conquering cancer.”
Under the transfer agreement, UCF’s Real Estate Foundation, which owns property for the university, will assume ownership and have a $50 million mortgage on the facility. The foundation will pay Orange County $2 million a year for the first 20 years and then $1 million a year for the last 10 years of a 30-year mortgage. Orange County will distribute these proceeds between the three local funding partners, proportionate to the original contributions made by the County, the City of Orlando and Tavistock. The payments will help offset taxpayer incentives that helped bring Sanford Burnham Prebys to Orlando in 2007.
The transfer takes effect on Aug. 27, and UCF will begin occupying the building on Dec. 1.
The cancer research and treatment center is expected to attract high-paying jobs to the community and spur economic development.
UCF will use about half of the building for its own cancer research and is continuing to work with private entities who will occupy the clinical side of the center. Those include Sarah Cannon Research Institute, the national cancer center of Hospital Corporation of America – UCF’s partner in its new hospital – and Provision Healthcare, a maker of proton beam therapies and operator of cancer treatment centers. Participation from the private sector means the project has the potential to generate significant local tax revenues.
Dr. Deborah German, UCF vice president for health affairs and dean of the UCF College of Medicine, said the center will diagnose and treat cancer patients with state-of-the-art established care and clinical research trials featuring new therapies.
“An additional and distinguishing feature of our cancer center is that the basic biomolecular, cellular and genetic research will also happen here,” German said. “This center will encompass the full spectrum of research. Clinical and basic scientists dedicated to finding new and better treatments for cancer will have the opportunity to work together with practicing clinicians for the benefit of our patients.”
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs lauded the project as good for both science and taxpayers.
“Already, Lake Nona Medical City is hailed as an innovative hub of medical research, treatment, education and collaboration. Today’s announcement furthers that mission, and launches a new chapter in UCF and Central Florida history – as well as cancer care,” Jacobs said.
“Not only will this agreement further strengthen our life sciences and medical innovation cluster, it supports UCF in their vision to offer a one-stop, comprehensive medical education and research center that will provide cutting-edge treatment for patients, as well as clinical trials and dedicated scientists whose work could yield the advanced treatments needed to someday conquer cancer. In addition to the significant benefit of expanded access for local residents to world-class medical care, the sale of the former Sanford Burnham Prebys building also provides a financial return on investment to taxpayers.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said UCF’s cancer center continues the important work of Lake Nona Medical City.
“Through the investments we’ve made together with our public and private partners and in attracting anchor operations like Sanford Burnham Prebys, the vision to create a Medical City in Lake Nona is now a reality and a living hub for advancing the life-science industry and creating the jobs of tomorrow for our residents,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our shared mission in furthering the scientific research and discoveries happening here through a new partnership with UCF that will build on the innovation at Lake Nona Medical City, and also on UCF’s continued investment in growing our biotech cluster and furthering our community’s spirit of collaboration.”
Sanford Burnham Prebys, based in La Jolla, Calif., opened its research institute in Lake Nona in 2007 and received state and locally funded incentives, including $40 million from Orange County and $32 million from the City of Orlando, that were used to construct the building. Faced with declining NIH grant funding nationally, the institute began talking to public and private groups about continuing the biomedical research activities in Lake Nona. In January, Orange County commissioners heard proposals from UCF and Florida Hospital to turn the Sanford Burnham Prebys building into a cancer center. Commissioners indicated they supported UCF’s plan and asked the university to come back with a final proposal, which was approved this week.
“We welcome the continued collaboration and innovation this will bring to our region,” said Rasesh Thakkar, senior managing director of Tavistock Group, the developer of Lake Nona. “The introduction of a comprehensive cancer center will complement and accelerate life sciences research and clinical care in Orlando, advancing our reputation as a top destination for researchers, doctors, students, and patients.”
UCF is working with Sanford Burnham Prebys to ensure institute employees are able to continue their research in Lake Nona Medical City and pursue new opportunities with UCF and other research organizations.
“Over the last 10 years, SBP established a world-class medical research facility in Lake Nona and served as a catalyst for an emerging biomedical industry. We are proud of the foundational role that SBP has had as a steward of the medical research mission in Florida and that the site will continue to advance health care and attract new medical partners to invest in our region,” said Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., president of Sanford Burnham Prebys.
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