Stimulus could create jobs at Moffitt Cancer Center

02/19/09 Seán Kinane
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Hundreds of construction and research jobs could be created if the Moffitt Cancer Center is able to tap into money from the federal stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama this week.

In a press conference this morning, Moffitt officials announced they will apply for funding from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act – more than $1 billion of which is earmarked for construction, renovation or repair of existing research facilities.

Less than a mile south of the Moffitt Cancer Center’s home on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, Moffitt is constructing a second research park. The first building will be completed in April, but Moffitt can only afford to equip and occupy the bottom two floors of that four-story building.

Director William Dalton hopes to secure federal stimulus funding to build out the top two floors from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We have very, very capable researchers, but the first thing the NIH asks is, ‘Do you have the space for these researchers to work in?’ And right now we are landlocked. And our buildings are full, which is great, we have very capable researchers, but we can’t hire any more people. And this effort requires, obviously, more researchers. So with the new monies through the federal stimulus package, we can finish the top two floors and we can tell the NIH we have the laboratories for the researchers that need to work in this area and then we can be competitive for that funding.”

The M2Gen building is named after the for-profit partnership created in 2006 between Moffitt and the pharmaceutical company Merck.

For now the top two floors will remain shells without equipment unless Moffitt receives a portion of the $789 billion federal stimulus funds, Dalton says. The bottom two floors will be used for a personal therapy database and as a bio-repository of tumors from cancer patients.

“The intent was, the more we learned about each individual, then we could personalize their therapy. And by personalizing their therapy, what you do is you provide the patient the best chance for cure because the therapy is designed for them with the less toxicity. Because that’s research we did not want to pass on the cost of that to the patient. So what we did was partner with an industry that could also use this information for new drug design. That’s a win-win-win. I mean the patient wins, the industry wins, and obviously we win as researchers. So our private-public partnership with Merck is actually a prototype of what I think you’ll see in the future.”

Most tumors would be deep frozen at minus-80 degrees celsius, Dalton says, but some would be embedded in blocks of paraffin wax.

John Horak, Moffitt’s project coordinator for the construction of the M2Gen building, pointed out where on the 25,000 square-foot first floor the tumor specimens will be stored and robotically retrieved.

“This is the freezer space. This will hold a Nexus Biostore Freezer that will hold approximately 6 million samples. We’ll outgrow that and put a second freezer in this space.”

Moffitt director William Dalton says that if federal recovery funds are provided to build out the top two floors of the M2Gen building, it would create 200 new construction jobs and more than 100 high-salary research jobs. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor says these are exactly the type of positions that the economic recovery package was designed to produce.

“The intent of the recovery plan is job creation. And it’s not just construction jobs. We want to create jobs for the 21st Century in science and technology. These are the higher-wage jobs that our students will stay in the Tampa Bay area for and our community will thrive with these higher-wage jobs.”

Danier Alexis, who is installing some of the building’s plumbing, says the construction workers and their families appreciate the work.

“I see for myself and all the workers, I think that will be a good thing and create more work for other workers.”

The M2Gen building will be the first of what Moffitt director William Dalton hopes will be a large cancer research campus on McKinley Drive between Busch Gardens and USF. Within the next three years, 1200 permanent high-tech positions and more than 3,000 construction jobs will be created, according to Dalton.

“Through the tremendous community support, the county of Hillsborough, the city of Tampa, as well as the state came together and donated this land to us, which is in close proximity to our main campus on University of South Florida, which is fabulous. And with this 30 acres, we have designed a complex for both laboratory research as well as critical care. The research building alone will be 250,000 square feet. We’ll be adding another 240,000-square-foot ambulatory care space. Right now our hospital is almost essentially full.”

Because of that, Dalton says there’s “a tremendous need” for cancer care and research in the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida.

“Florida ranks second in the nation for cancer-causing deaths. And the cure is in research, so you have to have this kind of complex. And it will be, ultimately, a $371 million complex employing, again, 1,200 new high-paying, high tech jobs that will obviously be a major stimulus to this economy.”

Dalton says that more state and federal investments are required to build out the new Moffitt campus.

Moffitt Cancer Center

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor




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