Over a decade after the Scripps Research Institute was brought to Jupiter with large public incentives, the town is on the verge of attracting a major life sciences company.

The Town Council will consider a deal Feb. 5 with New York-based Beacon Pharmaceuticals, which could build a $44.2 million life science facility on town-owned land. While the vote is on a non-binding incentive agreement and lease, this could set the stage for the agreement to become official, and provide a major boost for Palm Beach County’s life sciences industry.

The drive to make northern Palm Beach County a biotech hub started in 2004 with the luring of Scripps, which opened in 2006-2007 on Florida Atlantic University’s campus in Jupiter. The Max Planck Society followed, with another deal that depended heavily on public subsidies. At the time those nonprofit research organizations came, it was envisioned by public officials that northern Palm Beach would develop a thriving private biotech sector, yet there hasn’t really been a major investment by a private company.

That could soon change.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County considered a study in 2015 that found the lack of a life sciences accelerator and manufacturing hub constrained the growth of the industry locally. Beacon Pharmaceuticals could bring both of those elements, and more, to Jupiter.

“This will be one of the biggest projects since the arrival of Scripps Florida and Max Planck,” BDB President and CEO Kelly Smallridgesaid. “The most exciting part of this announcement is that it fills a void in the life science ecosystem by bringing an accelerator program and clinical trials in close proximity to our research institutes and Florida Atlantic University.”

Officials with Beacon Pharmaceuticals couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. It currently operates a life science incubator facility in New York. It is a subsidiary of Beacon Capital.

Under the proposed deal with Jupiter, Beacon Pharmaceuticals would invest at least $44.2 million building a life science facility. It would include a clinical research organization focused on new “right to try drugs,” an accelerator to host 50 life science companies in the first year, and a stem cell manufacturing center. The federal “Right to Try” Act was passed in 2018 and allows terminally ill patients access to investigational drugs.

The company expects to create 200 jobs with average salaries over $70,000, according to the memo, but the economic incentive agreement said it must create at least 137 jobs to qualify. The town could pay Beacon Pharmaceutical up to $598,827 over 10 years based on the number of jobs it creates, the salaries it pays, and whether employees are town residents. The maximum annual award would start at $108,877 in the first year, and decrease 10 percent annually.

In addition, the town would provide a $500,000 loan collateral guarantee to the company. The town could recover this money, with interest, should Beacon Pharmaceutical repay its loan.

Jupiter has previously issued loan collateral guarantees to over a dozen local life science companies. Some of them secured FDA approval for drugs, but none of those products were manufactured in Palm Beach County, the town memo noted.

The town memo stated that the incentives paid to Beacon Pharmaceutical would be offset by the taxable value of its new facility and the company’s lease payments. Beacon Pharmaceutical is seeking a 30-year lease for the town’s 9-acre site on the north side of Indiantown Road and the west side of the Florida’s Turnpike ramp. This is one exit north of Scripps and FAU.

Beacon Pharmaceutical would pay annual rent to the town based on the appraised market value of the property, with rent set to increase annually. The town has yet to appraise the site. The company also wants an option to purchase the property during the lease.

Of course, the company must also secure development approval from the town for its facility at a later time.

Smallridge said that Beacon Pharmaceutical is not in play for incentives from Florida because business accelerators don’t qualify for state incentives.

“The Business Development Board initiated this lead through a cold call several months ago and was able to provide enough information on the cluster to gain interest from Beacon,” Smallridge said. “Since that time, we have been working with the Town of Jupiter to ensure that the project comes to fruition.”

According to the BDB, Palm Beach County has over 700 biotech/pharmaceutical/medical device companies with 7,457 employees.

South Florida Business Journal