Dr. Cristina Grande is working to find a cure for Prader-Willi Syndrome. It is a disease where children have an insatiable hunger, and never feel full.
“If we can modulate that. If we can control or help them to control that, we are hoping to improve their life in that way," said Dr. Grande.
Scripps announced last week that a spinoff company called Calm Therapeutics, funded by a local non-profit, will focus on this work.
“We do basic science and discovery and partner with biotech and pharma to translate them into therapeutics," said Scripps Executive Vice President Doug Bingham.
Bingham says it’s important to take the long view as South Florida’s biotech industry has not blossomed like first thought.
Back in 2003, then Governor Jeb Bush envisioned a 50,000-job biotech cluster in Palm Beach County with several established companies. Right now, Scripps has about 500 employees.
“A variety of reasons for that. The great recession in 2007 just as we were getting started," said Bingham.
Research is very expensive and there have been lots of ups and downs with federal funding.
“It makes life for the scientists, the faculty, unsure of the future. Which projects they can take on, which ones they can’t," said Bingham.
This new year has started out promising. Beyond the Prader-Willi work, another spinoff company was announced earlier this year.
Expansion Therapeutics will develop drugs to target muscular dystrophy and other genetic diseases. The company raised $55 million in venture capital.
If this work turns out successful treatments, the money generated from royalties will help.
“We made a commitment, we stand by the commitment. We’re here forever as far as we’re concerned," said Bingham.