PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Pressing their palms to wet cement, scientists and dignitaries who had a hand in the latest biotech in Port St. Lucie celebrated the start of construction on its new lab.
VGTI, the Vaccine Gene Therapy Institute from Oregon’s Health Science University, aims to build a 100,000 square foot lab in Port St. Lucie.
The foundation is already in place, as are the plans for a much larger biotech cluster in the Tradition development.
VGTI’s scientists are already sharing space with their next door neighbors at Torrey Pines.
The Alfred Mann institute aims to build in the same complex, followed by a new hospital run by Martin Memorial.
VGTI’s executive director says each piece of the puzzle will build on the next.
"When you get an internationally recognized group of scientists it’s them who really form the seed for bringing in others," said Dr. Jay Nelson.
VGTI already has 65 scientists and support staff at work in Torrey Pines labs. They are researching infectious diseases like Dengue fever, working toward vaccines for various forms of cancer, and the ambitious goal of curing HIV in the next decade.
"If we continue to get the support we’ve been getting up until now and expand on this I think we are on the path to help cure HIV within the next 10 years," said VGTI's Dr. Rafik Sekaly.
VGTI expects more than 200 scientists will one day work in its new labs. They will collaborate with partners at Torrey Pines and conduct human testing of vaccines at Martin Memorial.
The lab’s director says he’s reaching out to local schools and colleges to try and groom the next generation of scientists.
"We need to show them what it’s like to work in a research lab. We feel like getting that fire in their belly to do the science that we all have is really important," said Nelson.
VGTI expects the new lab will be ready for scientists to move in in March of 2012.
In the meantime, it is hiring for scientists and support staff. For a closer look at what it has to offer, go to the VGTI web site.
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W. Scripps Company
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