South Florida Business Journal
Written by Jane Teague
The promise of a new life science cluster in north Palm Beach County was envisioned nearly 10 years ago when the La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Research Institute decided to open an East Coast facility alongside Florida Atlantic University’s Honors College in Abacoa.
As plans for the permanent building and recruitment of top-notch scientists got underway, The Max Planck Society in Germany was making plans of their own to open their first research site in the United States (one of just a handful outside of Europe), and in 2009 moved into their temporary labs at FAU, much like Scripps had done before them.
With the arrival of internationally recognized scientists shortly thereafter, the stage was set for scientific collaboration, research and discovery to take place.
This week, the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience hosted “Neurons and Networking”, an event crafted to showcase how the three organizations are collaborating to advance the field of neuroscience. In fact, the cluster was born out of a collaborative effort between Florida, Palm Beach County, Jupiter and Florida Atlantic University to support world-class research and discovery and further develop the region’s innovation economy.
Held at the Max Planck’s 100,000-square-foot facility that opened about a year ago, nearly 200 guests attended the event to meet colleagues and peers, and learn more about how the three institutions are working together to solve some of the most challenging and costly brain degenerative diseases of our time: stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and autism, as well as psychiatric and neurological conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Max Planck scientists are unlocking mysteries of the brain surrounding the nervous system and its capacity to produce perception, thought, language, memory, emotion, and action, ultimately defining who we are and why we behave as we do.
The Department of Neuroscience at Scripps Florida is focused on understanding mechanisms underlying learning and memory, sleep, and consciousness and the human diseases that affect these cognitive processes. In August, FAU Provost and Chief Academic Officer Brenda Claiborne will assume a new role as program director for neuroscience at FAU’s Jupiter campus. Rodney Murphey, chair of the department of biological sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, will become director of the Jupiter Life Science Initiative, originally launched in 2012 by moving six neuroscience labs from Boca Raton to Jupiter to facilitate the interaction of FAU faculty and students with researchers from Max Planck and Scripps.
Collaboration is happening on a number of fronts, including introduction of a Ph.D. program in integrative biology and neuroscience, plans for a semester-long “Science Experience”, and other areas including joint research and graduate programs, shared scientific core facilities, educational outreach, faculty forums, and joint “refreshment breaks” at the end of each week.
As evidenced by this week’s event, these institutions are delivering on the promise.