Palm Beach County has recognized for more than a decade that, despite two major scientific institutes locating in Jupiter, it was missing a crucial element to its burgeoning biotechnology industry.
The town of Jupiter on Wednesday announced the relocation of New York-based Beacon Pharmaceutical to Jupiter, which will create a biotech “accelerator” that will provide both capital and mentoring to as many as 50 companies and employ as many as 200 within five or so years, according to Philippe Gaston, Beacon Pharmaceutical CEO, who will oversee the initiative.
The accelerator would help companies take their drug discoveries and medical devices to clinical testing, manufacturing, federal agency approvals — and ultimately to consumers.
Beacon has committed to create 137 jobs with average annual salaries of more than $70,000.
The company plans to build a 200,000-square-foot headquarters in Jupiter, making a total capital investment of about $80 million in the town, according to a joint news release by Beacon, Jupiter, and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, which spearheads economic development.
The project will be built on a 9-acre parcel owned by the town, adjacent to the Sonoma Isles development, on the northwest corner of Indiantown Road and Florida’s Turnpike.
“What Beacon Pharmaceutical will bring to the town of Jupiter will support the local economy with both jobs and commerce. What they will offer the bioscience companies in Jupiter is to bring their discoveries to the world,” said Jupiter Mayor Todd Wodraska, noting that the county decided to bring Scripps Florida to Jupiter in 2006 and the Max Planck Florida Institute of Neuroscience in 2012.
Thirty-eight companies are already in discussion with Beacon to locate to the Jupiter accelerator, said Nancy Torres Kaufman, executive chairwoman of Beacon Pharmaceutical. So far there’s one from Florida, but the others are from outside the country, she said.
Torres Kaufman said she plans an international accelerator, which fits her background and the company’s worldwide contacts. She was only 14 when she fled Cuba on a raft to the U.S., later building and then selling a real estate company. But biotech was her passion so she founded Beacon Pharmaceutical, which she hopes will improve “lack of medical access,” she said.
She said Beacon hopes to work with researchers such as specialists in neuroscience at Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter to take their discoveries to market.
The Town Council of Jupiter voted Tuesday to approve an agreement to build the biotech accelerator with the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County and Beacon Pharmaceutical.
More than a decade ago, Palm Beach County and the state invested more than $600 million in taxpayer-backed incentives to attract The Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, Calif., to open a branch in the county. The large investment was highly criticized as the venture didn’t initially create the jobs expected and many spinoffs left the area.
Scripps Florida now has 600 people working at the institute, and its scientists have spun off an average of one company a year since 2009, a spokeswoman said.
Doug Bingham, Scripps Florida executive vice president, thanked the Business Development Board and Jupiter for their efforts. “It takes an ecosystem of specialized experts, and significant resources and investment, to move discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic.”
Kelly Smallridge, president of the Business Development Board, said more than 4,700 people work in the life-science industry at 700 companies in Palm Beach County. She expects Beacon to be attractive to other bioscience companies in South Florida.
“Our region is becoming more connected in so many ways,” Smallridge said, pointing to quicker transportation south to north on the Brightline higher-speed train. “Companies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties certainly will take note of this, especially because of the size of it.”
The project also is scheduled to have a contract research component to bring clinical trials to cancer patients and others in the county, according to Beacon.
Jupiter is providing an economic incentive of up to $108,877 over 10 years for creation of at least 147 confirmed jobs, either by Beacon or by the companies that locate in the accelerator.
Beacon Pharmaceutical is a new company, an offshoot of Beacon Capital, which has invested $1.6 billion in biotech, according to Torres Kaufman.